National Beef Association
For everyone with an interest in the British beef industry

National Beef Association responds to Energy Systems Catapult Report

11th March 2020

Region: National

Earlier this week, the National Beef Association was contacted by the BBC to provide a comment on the recent report, and were quoted in the following online article:

Our full statement can be seen below.

Many studies have centred on the negative impact of cows, but few raise positive comment on their essential part of life in this country, not only to those that gain their living from farming, but to the land management farmers undertake, and to the healthy food they produce, rich in protein, minerals and vitamins.

We live in a country which grows grass. Many of these areas of pasture are not fit for, or accessible to, grow crops. They cannot be maintained without the help of animals to graze, and the benefit from the nutrients the grass provides cannot be accessed without bovines to help process it. Most, if not all, of these reports fail to register the value of the carbon sequestration of the permanent pasture growth, or of the land management which maintains pastures and woodlands used for grazing. Our country is not beautiful by accident. The land is carefully managed by those who raise livestock, taking out nutrients, and replacing them in a biological cycle.

As an industry, we are doing everything we can towards decreasing our carbon footprint using a balanced and rational approach, whilst remembering that people still have to eat the right proteins, minerals and vitamins. Our standards of animal welfare and meat production are among the best in the world, and continue to improve. Productivity has risen dramatically compared to two decades ago; numbers of animals have decreased - even as the population has increased - and efficiency of output has soared. In real terms, this means less cows produce more beef, whilst the ground they graze on still supports an abundance of carbon sequestration. Alternative food sources require the use of petro-chemical fertilisers, and on many occasions the ground needs to be ploughed, which releases carbon trapped in the soil. Grazing cattle on natural pastures producing food is much more carbon friendly than either of these processes. Our country needs to be fed. If we plant trees on an area the size of Birmingham every year, in a country less than 70% self-sufficient, where is our food going to come from? Will it be flown in?

It does seem rather unfortunate that the report links beef production and aviation in this way. The timing is more than a little ironic; the shops are full of people panic buying and it seems clear that the nation’s food sector relies very heavily on imports, and the associated transport that brings them in to the UK. Our children require a healthy, balanced diet in their upbringing, where all the critical food groups are represented. Food produced on their own doorstep, using a system where animal and non-animal foods are symbiotic requires very little air travel, and makes excellent use of the resources our beautiful country provides. Foreign travel does not have the same necessity.