Meat can help defeat famine, argues Edinburgh academic

While obesity and food waste are the main concerns for policy-makers in much of the developed world, famine is still the major worry elsewhere, with less land suitable for food production through drought, flood or degradation.

'The science argues against consuming no meat,' said Professor Geoff Simm of the University of Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed
'The science argues against consuming no meat,' said Professor Geoff Simm of the University of Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed

But Professor Geoff Simm, head of the University of Edinburgh’s Global Academy of Agriculture & Food Security, told the International Farm Management Congress in Edinburgh that, despite criticism of the sector in some quarters, meat production was likely to continue to play an important role in feeding the world.

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Addressing the widely held convention that agriculture should be devoted to growing crops for human consumption rather than to produce animal protein, he said that science argued against stopping meat production entirely.

“While there is an argument for a diet with less meat in it, the science argues against consuming no meat,” said Simm, supporting what many Scottish meat producers viewed as common sense.

“There are areas of the world where grass grows better than any other crop and that, coupled with food industry by-products, could support an optimum of 12 per cent of animal ­protein in the diet, particularly from ruminants like cattle and sheep.”

Caroline Drummond, of Linking Environment & Farming, told the conference that producers could reclaim a better share of consumer spend by using global concerns about health to increase their power in the supply chain.

“Where the environment was 25 years ago, health is now,” she said, adding that farming would benefit from better explaining how its produce could help tackle health concerns.