Less is better

Meat is a hot topic at the moment, and not just because it’s BBQ season.

Most bodies, from the Climate Change Committee to the National Food Strategy, urge reducing meat consumption by 20% – 30% to take the pressure off the environment. That makes much sense, and at the Soil Association we’ve been calling for ‘less but better’ for many years. And for us, organic is a big part of the ‘better’ agenda.

Organic for animal wellbeing

For me, one of the main reasons I started to farm organically was because of my interest in and concerns about animal welfare. I want to stop intensive and inhumane ‘factory’ farming of animals. Organic standards provide the greatest opportunity for farm animals to have a good, free range life, able to fulfill their instincts to root, graze, nest and socialise with each other. Animals kept in this way can also, if managed well, contribute to recovering biodiversity and improve soil health; there’s generally about 50% more plant, insect and bird life on organic farms. If, as we are doing at Eastbrook, we then plant more trees and hedges, and ensure that our grasslands are full of diversity, then that figure can increase much further. 

For the environment

We’ve just done a full carbon audit at Eastbrook, and while we are not yet at net zero, our emissions per litre of milk or kilo of beef are considerably lower than those reported for more intensive systems. Our ‘good beef’ for example, a by product of the dairy herd, has emissions of 8.9 kg CO2e per kilo, compared with a national average of 23.4 (AHDB figs)….and that’s without taking into account any increases in carbon lock up in the pastures the cattle graze. 

The benefits for people – apart from a clearer conscience – are a lower risk of antibiotic resistance; at Eastbrook, both our dairies are antibiotic free, and the amount we and other organic farmers use is far, far lower than the national average. And organic meat tends to have higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids and Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLA). 

– Helen Browning

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