Western Morning News (Saturday)

Grass fed is green option for farming sustainabl­y

- ATHWENNA IRONS athwenna.irons@reachplc.com

GRASS-FED beef herds and sheep flocks, such as those which are a mainstay of the Westcountr­y’s rural economy, have a central role to play in tackling climate change as part of a sustainabl­e farming system, according to a new report.

The Food, Farming and Countrysid­e Commission ( FFCC) says ruminant livestock have been “morphed into the climate villain of global agricultur­e”.

Publishing its ‘Farming for Change: Mapping a Route to 2030’ report this week, to coincide with the Oxford Real Farming Conference, the charity argues that pasture-based herds can play an “essential ecological function” in nutrient cycling, improving soil health, biodiversi­ty and building up resilience to climate change, while also reducing emissions.

The report, based on the ‘Ten Years for Agroecolog­y Europe’ model by the French research institute IDDRI, puts ruminant livestock “right at the heart of a functionin­g, balanced agroecolog­ical system”.

This is because of their capacity to improve soil fertility through manure and enable farmers to “harness the potential of our grasslands to produce nutrient-dense protein”.

Sue Pritchard, chief executive of the FFCC, explained: “The need to tackle the climate, nature, health - and now economic - crises could not be more pressing. This research will help us broaden our options and understand the potential for agroecolog­y as an integratin­g approach that could have real impact across all these issues.

“Our modelling is a fascinatin­g tool to understand the implicatio­ns of a transition to agroecolog­y on carbon sequestrat­ion, reaching UK net zero targets, nature recovery, growing more healthy food and much more.”

According to the report, agroecolog­y is based on applying “ecological prin

According to the FFCC report, by 2050 ruminant livestock will contribute 28% of remaining agricultur­al emissions in the UK ciples to optimise the relationsh­ips between plants, animals, humans and the environmen­t”. Through building these relationsh­ips, agroecolog­y supports “food production, food security and nutrition, while restoring the ecosystems and biodiversi­ty that are essential for sustainabl­e agricultur­e”.

Although it recognises the role of grass-fed livestock in agroecolog­ical systems, the IDDRI model estimates that overall livestock production would fall around 36% by 2050. Production of chicken, dairy, eggs and pork would be slashed by almost 50% in 2050, freeing up land for agroforest­ry and rewilding.

In terms of consumptio­n, the model recommends eating “less but better” meat, and “significan­tly reducing”

This research will help us understand the potential for agroecolog­y SUE PRITCHARD, FFCC

chicken, dairy and pork within diets.

David George, from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) in the South West, expressed concerns about the practicali­ty of the report’s suggestion­s, adding: “Whilst it is good that the FFCC have indeed acknowledg­ed the important role grazing cattle and sheep play in sustainabl­e farming, I think farmers will have grave doubts about what they are suggesting as their modelling proposes enormous drops in production - up to 36% for livestock and roughly halving it for poultry, pork and eggs. I don’t see how that’s going to work, unless we end up eating the grass ourselves.”

 ?? Alfie Shaw / Hereford Cattle Society ?? >
Alfie Shaw / Hereford Cattle Society >

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