Industry must ‘own’ environment issues, conference told
The red meat industry needs to take the initiative to promote the environmental benefits of meat production more, delegates at the 14th Langford Food Conference on beef eating quality were told.
Eblex’s industry development manager Chris Lloyd told meat science academics and members of the industry that it had to robustly defend itself when faced with a number of NGOs who want to use climate changes issues to drive their own agenda. “Quite often, it’s an ‘eat less meat, save the planet’ kind of agenda,” he warned.
He said: “We can reduce CO2 and we know how, but at the same time we need to robustly defend our industry in face of other benefits and assets we offer society as a whole.
“Without livestock, large areas of the UK would not be producing any food at all and if we go down that route, all we would be doing is exporting the problem as we’d be importing from overseas.
“We must keep plugging the point that beef and sheep provides valuable products – although there is a GHG cost. But measuring the industry purely on CO2 alone is a naďve argument,” he said, adding that industry could demonstrate that the relationship between food supply, resource use, biodiversity, landscape management, water and environmental science is very complicated.
Lloyd’s discussion on climate mitigation in the beef sector looked at the work that has been done by Eblex to help improve on-farm efficiencies and track the ways of lower greenhouse gas (GHG emissions), in order to meet the UK’s Low Carbon Transition Plan agricultural target of 11% by 2020.
He said that Eblex was committed to lowering GHG, but said that it was about trying to maintain a voluntary rather than a legislative approach, which could involve carbon trading.
He said that the research had shown a trend whereby improving the gross margin from a performance perspective is likely to result in a reduction in a producer’s carbon footprint.
“In any type of farm system, it’s about maximising the efficiencies and resources available,” he said, pointing out that low-carbon farms involved achieving optimum daily live weight gains, optimising output per breeding animal, using the best-quality feed possible along with co-products, reducing reliance on artificial fertilisers, and trying to source alternatives to soya.
“I wouldn’t go out preaching to farmers that they need to change their systems specifically because of climate change irrespective of any financial drivers,” he said, “they should be doing it for financial reasons and get a carbon benefit. It’s a win-win situation.”
He said that Eblex would continue its successful on-farm auditing and look at other auditing methods to provide a global methodology for this type of science. He said that the role of sequestration or carbon storage also needed to be more widely acknowledged.
“We need to acknowledge the environmental message, which isn’t mentioned much,” he said. “So industry has to own the issue.
“We waste 87t of beef and lamb every year in the household. Rather than ‘eat less meat’, let’s waste less meat.”
Leading vet school wins humane slaughter award
A leading veterinary school has won an annual award from the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) in recognition of the significant scientific and technical contribution it has made to improving the humane slaughter of livestock.
The Stunning and Slaughter Group at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences at Langford was presented with the award on Thursday (19 July). The group, which includes Dr Toby Knowles, Dr Jeff Lines, Dr Mike O’Callaghan, Dr Mohan Raj, Lindsay Wilkins and Steve Wotton MBE, was said to have made major contributions to the science underpinning humane livestock slaughter.
The award was renamed the ‘HSA John Ace-Hopkins Award for Significant Advances in Humane Slaughter’ in memory of last year’s winner, John Ace-Hopkins, who died in November 2011.
The group, led primarily by Dr Raj, has spent over 15 years looking at alternatives to the multi-bird electrical waterbath stunner, investigating the design and operation of a poultry waterbath stunner. It also initially developed the use of controlled atmosphere (CA) slaughter system, paving the way for a commercial gas slaughter system, which encourages better welfare practices because the birds do not need to be handled or shackled.
The group has also undertaken research assessing the efficacy of electrical stunning, and looking at welfare refinements for this method, which remained widely used throughout the poultry industry.
Dr Becky Whay, head of the Animal Welfare and Behaviour Group at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences, said: “I am delighted the group has been recognised with this award for their work, especially as Drs Raj and O’Callaghan have recently retired after a lifetime’s work in this field.
“The group’s research has led to a high-welfare alternative through the use of both CA and an electrical alternative that has real potential for the future.”
The group has also played a role in training and promoting good welfare practices through the Masters degree in Meat Science and Technology and the Animal Welfare Officer training courses, as well as contributing to the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) and European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) scientific reviews.
The HSA is an independent charity that works to improve the welfare of food animals worldwide during transport, marketing and slaughter through educational, scientific and technical advances.