Farming News - Why sustainable livestock farming is essential for a healthy planet.
Why sustainable livestock farming is essential for a healthy planet.
Ahead of the broadcast of the BBC 1 documentary, ‘Meat, A Threat to Our Planet?’, Patrick Holden, CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) stresses the importance of differentiating between the livestock systems and meats that are part of the problem, and those that are part of the solution.
"There is no doubt that grain fed, intensively farmed livestock, including those found in feed-lots in the USA, are hugely damaging to the environment and public health, and for this reason should be phased out entirely.
However, it is also true that sustainable agriculture represents one of the most significant opportunities to mitigate irreversible climate change, primarily through the regeneration of our soils. With this in mind, grazing ruminant animals (including cattle and sheep), have a critically important role to play in rebuilding our soil fertility and carbon stocks.
In order to achieve this, we must move away from the prominent models of intensive, often monoculture systems which rely heavily on chemical inputs, towards more regenerative, mixed farming models, that integrate the production of plants for human consumption with natural soil fertility building phases within rotations. This can include the introduction of cover cropping and grass, which when grazed in a sustainable way can not only produce food we can eat, in the form of grass fed meat and dairy, but also improve the fertility of our soils.
Of course, sustainable livestock products should form part of a balanced diet. However, whilst we must all be striving to eat more plants, just as importantly as scrutinising where our animal products come from, we must also question the provenance and wider impact of the plants we eat. Are for example, imported soy or palm oil products, or highly processed meat alternatives, better than eating something we can produce in a sustainable way on our doorstep?
By aligning our diets with the productive capacity of the sustainable farming systems in the area in which we live, we can have a significant impact on shifting the balance of financial advantage towards the type of farming systems we need to mitigate climate change, as well as reducing pollution, increasing levels of biodiversity and most importantly, improving public health."