Sustainable Food Trust

Just found this Sustainable Food Trust site through a link from another blog, specifically this article on whether eating no meat is doing more harm than good.

No comments as yet from me as to whether it’s a good site or not, but I’ll be reading through the articles with interest.

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9 Responses to “Sustainable Food Trust”

  1. narf7 Says:

    Interesting, however, it really depends on the ‘crops’ that you are growing as to whether or not they are sustainable. Check out the Amazon rainforest. I am quite sure it isn’t regularly grazed or rotated and that its fertility comes from the mass of organic matter that falls from the canopy. I think science can be skewed whichever way you want it to be skewed to arrive at an “acceptable” outcome to whoever is paying for the scientific study most times. The man in the article is obviously a farmer who farms beef. It is obviously in his best interests to sway people back to eating red meat as he will directly benefit from this science. If everyone adopted the paleo diet and ate lots of meat, where on earth would all of that meat come from and how could the planet possibly produce such a mass of animal protein remembering that they eat vegetative mass and that mass has to come from somewhere. There are a lot more calories in a cow than there are in soybeans or lentils but you need a whole lot more cropping area and resources to arrive at a single cow. I think I will stick to my plant based diet to be honest. It’s cheaper, we both feel a lot healthier, we don’t have to worry about killing anything (aside from the odd caterpillar that might venture onto my lettuce) and there is a lot of science supporting my way of eating as well. I guess it is horses for courses really to be honest. It’s how you choose to view the ‘science’ and as we both know, science is bought and sold these days to the highest bidder.

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Yes you’re right about the Amazon rainforest, but rainforests aren’t the natural habitats of grazing animals. Destroy the rainforest and the land returns to an earlier succession, i.e. pasture and then it’s suitable for grazing animals (which is why it’s being destroyed).
      The main thrust of his article is about storing carbon in the soil and using grazing animals to do this is the best way. And if you’ve got the animals and you want to be sustainable about it, you either have to eat some of them or stop them breeding, otherwise they’ll overrun your land.
      If you use the land to only grow crops and you take that crop off the land then you’re removing carbon consistently and not putting any back. But rotating crops with animals works because carbon is taken out of the soil by the crop and is put back by the grazers, plus nitrogen from their droppings. Rotation is the essence of it.
      Stick to your meat-free diet by all means, if it makes you happy. Do I detect a bit of defensiveness in your reply? πŸ˜‰
      BTW, scientists aren’t all bought and sold. There are still plenty out their with some ethics and morals and they’re doing valuable work. Considering the way they get criticised these days, I wonder why any of them bother, but as a science-trained person, I know and understand that you ‘do’ science because of a need to know the hows and whys of how life on earth works.
      Also, see my comments to kayepea below.

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      • narf7 Says:

        I think that there is a place for raising and using animals in agriculture, just not big business models of it that are ruining the land. Smaller farms with chooks would be a great alternative and crop rotation is a given, however you don’t have to kill and eat the animals that you are using. Once we get rid of our roosters, we are going to keep a small flock of girls predominately for their insect eating ability (no grasshoppers on Serendipity Farm and there was a veritable plague of them everywhere else this year) and their valuable bedding straw that is full of nitrogen. There are many ways around gardening sustainably. I may have been slightly defensive but I do think that people go hunting for ‘science’ that supports the way that they want to live so that they can use it against people who choose to live an alternative way. It’s human nature to be honest. I know that not all scientists are bought and sold but big business is where the money is if you are a scientist. My sisters husband was a scientist for many years and earned peanuts. He did have to work with lab animals though and what’s your take on that? He left and became a teacher. He earns three times what he earned as a scientist now. I would imagine that it wouldn’t be difficult to suck up your ethics if there was enough money on the table to sway your research in a specific direction. I haven’t got a lot of faith in scientists any more. They really are just human after all and subject to the same emotions and responses as the rest of us. Your explanation would make us all scientists by the way πŸ˜‰

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        • foodnstuff Says:

          We certainly do have a confirmation bias when searching for information…I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to that 😦
          We also need people to live in alternative ways; that’s what diversity is all about. Natural selection will sort out what’s healthy and sustainable in the end.
          I still have faith in scientists and the work they do, though.
          I found another site with info and videos about small farms in the UK trying to work with animals and crops. Will post it when I get time. Off outside now, to cut back the asparagus! Nice sunny day here.

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          • narf7 Says:

            We had a lovely sunny day as well. The rest of the week won’t be so nice. I planted out perpetual spinach, snow peas, sugar snap peas and kale the other day. Most of what I planted out is very happy but the slugs had a feast on my spinach so I might have to get some more. It’s a pity Earl is king of the roost inside the house perimeter fence as ducky would quickly do a number on my slug population but they are safe and sitting pretty on a goldmine out there in Narnia thanks to Earl’s patrols. I agree with the confirmation bias. It’s human nature to want to shore up what we believe in. I, too, believe that most scientists are doing amazing work but know that scientists have been responsible for some of the most brilliant and terrifying end results of our times. Again, we are all only human.

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  2. kayepea Says:

    I think he’s got it not quite correct for the reason meat-eaters go vegan: I think a lot of people change because they don’t like the way a good-sized proportion of our meat is “factory-farmed” these days.

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      But that’s exactly what he’s saying IMO. He want’s to show that without animals in a farm system, the system doesn’t work as well, in terms of storing carbon which is the main theme of his article. He’s not about factory farming because that isn’t done in natural pastures. Cows were once animals in natural environments. Think of your own experience in habitats in this country where the herbivores are no longer around. The grasses and herbs grow and produce a lot of dead growth which eventually eliminates the plant (and creates fire fuel). The grass family, in particular, are well adapted to grazing and benefit from it. As the tops are grazed the excess roots die and return carbon to the soil. He wants people to continue to eat meat and to source if from farms which are managed in this way, because it’s more in keeping with the way environments worked before people came along and wrecked them.
      Check out the work of Allan Savoury and Joel Salatin. They’re doing similar things.
      I won’t ever give up eating meat because I like it and need the nutrients from it than aren’t available in plants, but I’ll try to source it from non-factory farm producers where possible.

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  3. Chris Says:

    It’s funny how there are such great divides, between plant based or animal based diets, on social media. As omnivores we’re meant to graze a bit of everything, and never make one form of food, our only sustenance.

    I get the angle of the article however, as a reply to the ecological missing links. He’s an organic beef farmer, so he’s trying to change the paradigm of how livestock are kept. Especially, since there’s been a lot of bad science about how unsustainable cows are, as a food source.

    The science doesn’t discriminate against organic farmers who sequester carbon as a by-product of their animals, and those kept in feed lots, which pollute the environment. The science focuses simply on the inputs to plate, and not the by-products to nature, herbivores provide during their life cycle. Without herbivores, we get an imbalance in fertility inputs, which is detrimental to the environment.

    If the science stopped comparing animals versus plants, then we’d have to start analysing the systems which produce the food, instead. Industrial systems which provide plant and meat based diets, are equally damaging to the environment. As neither seek to return the natural equity, to took to produce them.

    Organic growing systems can be different however, so I can see a need for this article.

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Agreed, Chris….we never seem to think about the ecology of the systems we rely on to produce food, only how much output we can get out of them for the minimum input. Instead of seeing how successful natural systems are, because they’ve evolved to be that way over millions of years, we interfere with their functioning and then wonder why our human systems don’t seem to work or cause more problems elsewhere. Looking at the big picture is more useful than being polarised over a single issue (vegetarianism versus meat-eating).

      We are lucky in this country that we can still get meat from animals raised on pasture and if that disappears, there are still kangaroos (and rabbits!). No-one needs to go vegan because of the way animals are raised here.

      I have no issues with vegetarianism as a moral choice, but I do worry that people may be compromising their overall health unnecessarily by not eating at least some meat. It’s still possible in this country to actively seek meat that is produced with the overall beneficial ecology of the system in mind.

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