Feeding the Animals that Feed Us

UK - A new Soil Association report launched today [19 October] opens the urgently needed debate on how we can move away from feeding our farm animals grains and imported proteins and promotes more sustainable alternatives such as increased grazing and use of home-grown feed.
calendar icon 19 October 2010
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Feeding the animals that feed us’ aims to kick-start a discussion about the necessary improvements needed in the way we feed our livestock in the UK. A trend towards intensive factory farming systems over the past 60 years has meant that cows, chickens and pigs are now eating less grass and food waste and more grains and imported proteins like soya. This is a highly inefficient use of resources - the dependence on grain and soya imported from across the globe makes our food systems much less resilient and adds to the vulnerability and unsustainability of our food chain.

With the rising demand for meat and milk we are using ever more land and resources to feed farm animals - destroying rainforests and grasslands and contributing towards climate change in the process. Land-use change for the purposes of agriculture is one of the greatest threats facing the planet’s biodiversity and is a key driver of climate change.

With climate scientists, public health professionals and environmentalists all saying we need to eat less meat and dairy products on both health and climate-change grounds, we also need to examine how the meat we eat can be produced more sustainably. Not all meat production systems have an equal impact, therefore the sustainability of our future food systems will depend not just on how much meat we eat, but also what we feed our animals.

Farm animals can play an important role in helping to tackle environmental challenges - helping us store carbon in grassland soils, recycling our waste food, providing nutrients to grow our crops, and giving us healthy food to eat.

Organic farmers have a head start in meeting the feed challenge - they are less reliant on grain, do not use soya from recently converted forest or grassland, and use more grass and silage to feed animals – but there are still improvements that can be made to organic production in the UK, with the intention of producing further environmental and animal welfare-friendly outcomes.

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