Although firmly rooted in good traditional farming practice, Pasture-Fed also has a crucial role to play in meeting the challenges of tomorrow’s food production. Recent publications such as the Foresight Report and Agriculture at a Crossroads (IAASTD) have tried to envisage how we meet the challenge of feeding a projected world population of 9 Billion in the year 2050 with increasing pressure on our farmland whilst at the same time delivering environmental and social targets within farming.
These reports are based on an assumption that developing economies such as China India and Africa will follow the lead shown by Western economies by increasingly shifting towards a meat-based diet that involves feeding animals on cereals and other concentrate feed. However, this method of livestock production requires anywhere between 7 and 10 calories of animal feed to make just 1 calorie of food for human consumption. It therefore involves large areas of farmland to grow this cattle feed as well as a similarly inefficient use of the water, minerals and fossil fuels involved in their production.
The starting point for Pasture-fed was to look at the resources that we have at our disposal:
Grassland represents nearly two-thirds of the farmed area in Britain, much of it on soils that can grow little else in the way of food crops. We also have a climate that is ideally suited to grassland production. Ruminant cattle and sheep have a unique ability to turn cellulose in the form of grass and other grazed plants into a variety of products that are useful to us, including food and fibres. These animals also perform a wonderfully low-cost, self-managing, self-maintaining way of managing the countryside that would otherwise have to be undertaken by machinery.
The solution to meeting the challenge of tomorrow’s food production would therefore seem to be right under our noses, or at least those of our cows and sheep. We use the ability of ruminant cattle and sheep to make the best potential use out of grassland and use good productive arable land to grow crops such as wheat, maize, Soya and pulses not as cattle feed with all of its associated inefficiencies, but for direct human consumption.
By a happy coincidence, there is an irrefutable body of research that proves animals fed on pasture and whose metabolism and production is matched to their natural capacity, are associated with lower stress, increased longevity and increased fertility. The produce, such as meat and milk, has proven advantages in terms of quality. Pasture-Fed also has impeccable environmental credentials and can often be found to have a positive carbon footprint.