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Meat- A threat to our planet (BBC Programme)

As a beef farmer passionate about looking after my animals and the land to the highest of standards. this programme was a difficult one to handle. Most of the messages from the programme were I believe true. We as humans on this planet have caused serious consequences from producing meat in what are basically factory farms; not only to the climate but also to our soils, forests and wildlife. Although we have some farms, like that shown in the film, in the UK the vast majority of our red meat in this country comes from pastures on the western side of the UK based on a diet of grass. This is NOT what was in the film. Most, if not all, of the farms shown were factory farms using vast amounts of soya from Brazil and Argentina or were from farms in Brazil where the rainforest had been cut down simply to graze cattle.

At West Town Farm, the staff and me are very proud of the way we farm. It is part of our ethos that all the land and animals are looked after organically. Every year we have an inspection that rigorously audits us. All the animals are checked and all our paperwork including sales, inputs, outputs, inspected.

There are 130 animals here at the farm that we look after. All of them at some stage end up in the food chain for us humans to eat. They only eat grass from our fields in the summer and hay and silage made from those same fields in the winter.

The IPCC report on climate change came out in October 2018. Although we as farmers realise that cattle rearing produces gases that are a major source of greenhouse gases, the press have picked out various pieces of information that are headline grabbing for their own benefit. The recent bad press for red meat is a particular example. Red meat from cattle produced in USA is vastly different to that produced from animals grazing our green pastures of the western half of the UK. Our carbon footprint is so much lower than our American colleagues.

At a recent conference, I attended in the Blackdown Hills, a speaker from the met office concluded that totally grass fed animals such as ours maybe 10% of the problem towards contributing to climate change but also 25% of the solution.

This is based on the ability of grassland, if managed carefully, to sequester carbon from the atmosphere to the soil.

Here is a word from Patrick Holden, Chair of the Sustainability Trust.

“Instead of demonising livestock in general and cattle and sheep in particular, we need to differentiate between the animals that are part of the problem, namely intensively produced poultry, pork and diary products, and those that are part of the solution, namely grass-fed ruminants. At the root of the climate change problem is our fossil fuel consumption, this is where we need to take the most urgent action”.

The following passage is quoted from Professor Nigel Scollan, Director of Institute for Global Food Security, Queen's University Belfast.

'I believe animal-based proteins are very favourable compared with plant-based proteins. Ruminants (cows and sheep) in particular are very positive because they convert plant-based material that’s not edible for humans, such as grass, into high-value, high-nutritient protein.'

With 65 percent of British farmland only suitable for grassland, the most efficient way to turn this inedible grass into high-quality, nutritious protein is to graze livestock – arguably providing the most climate-friendly way of feeding our growing population. Our extensive grasslands also act as a vital store of carbon and provide a habitat for floral diversity, which is dependent on grazed land to thrive. We believe it is far better to buy British meat than to rely on imported alternative proteins from production systems that don’t observe our high values or don’t share our environmental ambitions.

“By buying British, people can trust their beef and lamb have been produced sustainably by farmers who care.”

At West Town Farm we go further because we rear our cattle to organic standards and we are also certified 'Pasture for Life' and have been audited to sell our beef as 100% pasture fed.

We have a whole range of foods grown locally right on your doorstep, at our farm, available in our farm shop. Burgers, steaks, a selection of joints and mince beef. Also we stock sausages from our pigs at the farm. We also sell apples, squash and pumpkins during the autumn months. Only 2 miles away is Shillingford Organics who grow a range of organic vegetables and it is possible to order a weekly vegetable box from them.

By supporting your local farms you can do your bit for the environment and for local jobs too.

Merry Christmas to you all,

Andy Bragg

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