Pasture for Life receives multi-million pound funding

A new research project will look into Pasture for Life’s meat production, exploring ways to increase the resilience and sustainability of the UK food system. 

The funding is part of the UK’s Global Food Security programme and is part of a £4.9 million interdisciplinary research programme.

‘Sustainable economic and ecological grazing systems – learning from innovative practitioners’, will be stretched out over a three year period and will be led by Dr Liza Norton from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The programme has a start date of January 2018.

Sixty Pasture for Life farmers will be involved with the project, where they will work with researchers to provide data that will subsequently be used to evaluate the ecological, agronomic and social impacts of their approach. It will investigate the potential for transforming wider livestock systems across the nation.

“Our evaluations will include assessments of everything the farmers are doing, from measures of soil quality to pasture biodiversity, from animal growth rates to how often the vet visits,” commented Norton. “We shall also be doing detailed economic analysis and talking to consumers who buy Pasture for Life meat and comparing what they say to consumers who don’t.

“We shall investigate the broad range of public goods delivered by these farmers – whether this is the storage of carbon, preserving water quality or enhancing wildlife,” added Norton.

“I am hoping the project will provide insights that may transform some of the green deserts which currently form much of the agricultural land area in this country.”

Dr John Meadley, chairman of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, explained: “Lisa and I started talking about this project a year ago and the news that it is to go ahead is very exciting.

“Our members all passionately believe in the Pasture for Life approach. The results of this project will provide much-needed data and, importantly, look at it from several perspectives, including that of the local community.”

‘A number of opportunities’

The funding is coming from the Biological Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council, and the Scottish government.

Meadley announced the news at Pasture for Life’s AGM held at Lannock Manor Farm in Hertfordshire on Wednesday 11 October.

The meeting commenced with a video from Minister of State, Farming, Fisheries and Food George Eustace, declaring his support for the organisation.

“There are a number of great opportunities and there is a real chance for us to present these as part of a package, where we try to incentivise and support pasture-based livestock systems,” said Eustace, who visited a Pasture for Life farm earlier this year. “And also try to develop a brand around these systems, which might be able to dovetail with some of our native beef breeds.”

Another guest speaker at the AGM was Professor Achim Dobermann, director and chief executive of Rothamsted Research.

He threw his support behind seeking a greener kind of agriculture, but admitted that consumers’ drive for cheaper produce to spend money on other things has resulted in the production of large arable farms and confinement livestock systems.

Moving forward, he expressed concern about how research was funded, with researchers being motivated to publish papers in high-impact journals rather than working on finding solutions.

He said: “We are often not working on real world problems and not working with or for farmers. If we just concentrate on the technology end of things, with no focus on real farm businesses, everyone will miss out. We need to work with more farmers and come up with solutions we can test in real-life situations.” 

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