The 15th September marks #BackBritishFarmingDay, a public initiative by the NFU celebrating the British farming industry and the contribution it makes to UK food production. More importantly, the campaign aims to galvanise the food and farming community and politicians in Government to back the movement.
Why is British farming important?
The UK farming industry is a key part of the country’s infrastructure, contributing over £120 billion to the economy and meeting 64% of domestic food consumption needs (as of 2020). In addition to this, farming also plays a significant role in the management of the British countryside, providing habitats for wildlife and protecting the natural landscape.
But I thought farming was bad for the environment?
Not all farming is equal. British farming is one of the most sustainable farming practices in the world. In fact, according to the Governments Committee on Climate Change, greenhouse emissions from UK beef are about half the global average. British beef and lamb are predominantly fed on open grassland with very minimal input from crops and grains, meaning the UK meat production is not a contributor of deforestation like soya-fed livestock in other parts of the world. In addition, livestock play an important role in maintaining and enhancing the soil used to grow crops. Livestock to arable crop rotations greatly improves the health of the soil, with manure increasing the soil’s organic matter.
Farmland also positively contributes to the environment by acting as a carbon sink, capturing excess CO2 in the vegetation and storing carbon in the soil which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere as pollutant. The UK farming industry is constantly evolving and innovating to adopt more renewable practices and the NFU hopes that British farming can reach net zero GHG emissions by 2040.
What about animal welfare?
Britain has been leading the way on animal welfare for some time, with strict laws and regulations in place protecting the health and welfare of farm animals. Leading industry bodies recognise the importance of animal welfare and are passionate about supporting farmers to meet these standards, offering a significant number of credible quality assurance and welfare schemes/initiatives.
Why does #BackBritishFarmingDay matter?
Months after the Brexit deadline, questions over trade deals, welfare standards, taxes on imports and exports and immigration policies still remain. The tariff-free trade deal with Australia earlier this year left many UK farmers deeply concerned over the future of their livelihoods. The NFU reacted with anger, arguing that these types of deals will not only remove trade protections from the UK farming sector, but will also force it to try and compete with much larger industries. The trade deal could also cause a decline in the welfare of the meat we consume. While Australia is noted as having a ‘high animal welfare status’ by the World Organisation for Animal Health, the country currently uses practices that are banned in the UK.
Back British Farming Day will highlight British farming values and the industry’s importance to the UK economy. Now is a pivotal time for the future of the British food and farming industry and it’s imperative to call attention to the vital role the farming industry play in feeding the nation and protecting the countryside.
How can I support British farming?
Buy British – The most important thing you can do to support the continuation of British farming is to buy from British farms. The red tractor logo symbolises that the farm has complied with animal welfare, environmental and medicinal laws. Be aware that some items can be labelled as British if they are imported and then packaged here, so always take a closer look at the back of the packaging.
Boycott anonymous food – The best shops and restaurants will use fresh, local produce wherever possible. But if they aren’t telling you where their ingredients are from then don’t give them your business. Some of the worst farming practices have occurred because we stopped paying attention to where our food comes from.
Shop small – The UK is full of small producers who deliver outstanding quality and freshness. Supporting your local independent businesses, such as butchers, is a great way of creating competition, quality and diversity across the industry. It is also better for our economy, society and our health.
Re-prioritise budget – Across the decades we have begun to spend less and less on our food however, much of this food is produced using poor practices and is damaging both to the environment and on people’s health. For people struggling with money, buying cheap food is not only convenient but also a necessity. But by incorporating good quality meat just once or twice into your budget you are not only making a more sustainable choice, but the meat is much tastier and healthier choice.