08 February 2021, 09:04 AM
  • Writing exclusively for Speciality Food, Minette Batters, NFU president, explains the role British farmers are playing in supporting animal welfare and minimising climate impact
Minette Batters, NFU: “It isn’t as simple as plant-based good/animal-based bad”

What we eat is a personal choice. With differing advice and a huge variety of foods available, diets have become increasingly complex. Not only does what we eat have a huge impact on our health, but for many people food choices are a reflection of their values and beliefs.

Farmers aren’t here to tell people what they should and shouldn’t eat. But we do want to ensure that people are making informed decisions based on accurate information. It really isn’t as simple as plant-based good/animal-based bad.

For example, people see the large-scale, intensive farm systems in the US or the deforestation caused by cattle farming in Brazil, and are led to believe it’s the same in the UK. It’s not. Here, our cattle are predominantly grass-fed and graze fields that act as a significant carbon store. Our chickens are produced under some of the highest animal welfare regulations in the world, and our farmers put animal husbandry at the very top of the priority list.

Because of the systems we adopt in the UK, our greenhouse gas emissions from beef are half that of the world average and we lead the way in high welfare, climate-friendly farming.

We can and want to do more which is why we have set an ambitious target for British agriculture to be net zero by 2040.

As a nation, we need to build our understanding of where and how different foods are produced. Production systems can make a huge difference both for animal-based food and plant-based, and by understanding them better we can make informed decisions about what foods we want to eat. I believe we all should have access to a nutritious and sustainable diet.

By eating British meat and dairy, alongside plenty of fruit and veg, we can enjoy the foods we want while supporting good animal welfare, a thriving natural environment and minimising our climate impact.

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