Britain’s cattle herds may be essential to sustainable agriculture, says study


The land can be fertilized by cattle, but consumption of other meat, milk and eggs must fall by 50%.

According to an analysis by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC), however, the production and consumption of other meat, milk and eggs will have to fall by half and vast forests planted with new trees. The analysis evaluated agroecology, a type of agriculture that involves organic farming and aims to work with nature and to ensure justice for farmers, people and future generations. The scenario of the study calls for no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers to be used in 2050 and for the release to nature of approximately 10 percent of existing farmland. Net greenhouse gas emissions would decrease by around 75%, meaning that the remainder would have to be reduced by other means to reach the U.K.’s net-zero goal. Experts welcomed the analysis, but said it reflected only one realistic agro-ecological scenario and that greater environmental gains would result from other scenarios with even lower livestock numbers. The report showed that agroecology could generate ample safe and environmentally friendly food for the UK, Sue Pritchard, organic farmer and executive director of the FFCC, said. We argue that properly managed, pasture-fed beef can play a very important role in agro-ecological farming systems,” she said, and was not just a “niche, hippy project.

Synthetic fertilizer can be supplemented by cattle manure, she said, reducing climate emissions and thus adding carbon to the soil. But even in the best cases, this storage of carbon replaces only 20 to 60 percent of the overall emissions produced by grazing cattle. The need to dramatically reduce meat consumption is not at all contested, Pritchard said. But you don’t have to reduce it just through red meat.”But you don’t have to reduce it just through red meat.”

In the study, the production of beef decreased by just 3% by 2050, while demand decreased by a fifth, which meant that some would have to be exported.

In the case of both of these goods, the United Kingdom will be self-sufficient – only milk and lamb are now grown entirely domestically. Agroecological yields are lower than traditional farming, but Pritchard said investment changes are possible and mixed agroecological farming is more resilient to the impacts of the climate crisis.

It is also necessary to reduce the 30 percent of food that goes to waste and integrate the recovery of wildlife into agriculture, he said. I do not argue against any very necessary re-wilding ventures.

But all land is valuable and nature around the UK should be supported. That’s far more effective than attempting to subdivide the land in a very artificial way. Some have proposed that to solve the environment and biodiversity crisis, one-quarter to one-half of farmland needs to be converted to natural habitat. In the study, I generally welcome the vision because it acknowledges the need for a dietary shift and a shift towards an agricultural system that works with nature, not independently of nature,” said Pete Smith, Professor of Soils and Global Change at Aberdeen University. “But it is only a possible scenario, and I expect even lower numbers of livestock to provide even greater ben ben. These nutrients may also be made available to plants, so the claim that we need ruminants to provide the soil with nutrients does not hold water,” Pritchard said. “In 2019, without decreasing beef production or converting vast areas of farmland to forest, the National Farmers’ Union proposed a proposal for agriculture to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040.

Instead, 75% of agricultural emissions would come from rising trees, the NFU said.


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