The 11th Great British beef week to focus on sustainability

With a carbon footprint less than half the global average, British beef – produced from grass grown in fields unsuitable for growing crops and watered by plentiful rain – is amongst the most sustainable in the world.

Minette Batters.
Minette Batters.

And, with today marking the start of the 11th annual Great British Beef Week, which celebrates the nation’s favourite meat, the focus will be on the industry’s sustainability story.

The Ladies in Beef group which first fired up the campaign in 2010 under the guidance of current English NFU president Minette Batters and co-founder, Jilly Greed, said that they wanted to raise the profile of British beef and dispel some of the negative press which had surrounded the sector in the climate change debate.

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The pair said that this year’s campaign was all about the environment and celebrating and highlighting the work which British farmers do to make the industry one of the most sustainable in the world.

“The food industry is constantly evolving, and this year we wanted to demonstrate how the beef sector is progressive and wanted to demonstrate its environmental sustainability credentials. By doing this, our aim is to reassure consumers that by continuing to buy and enjoy beef, they are acting responsibly and sustainably,” said Greed.

She said that managing land in a sustainable way was a fundamental responsibility of the modern-day farmer – with approaches including farming regeneratively, improving grasslands and paddock grazing, planting trees and maintaining wildflowers for the bee population.

“It’s vital that we keep bringing attention to the ways our producers are respecting the land, whilst also producing the foods we enjoy eating.”

Minette Batters added: “The British beef sector has so much to celebrate right now. Not only do we produce a fantastic, affordable product that is renowned around the world for its quality, but we do it in one of the most sustainable ways possible, utilising our natural resources to turn inedible grass into delicious, climate-friendly protein.”

However the campaign takes place against the backdrop of a steep decline in the national beef breeding herd, with numbers falling by 230,000 head in the past ten years – and by 140,000 cows in the past four years.

“Sadly there is an industry acceptance that suckler beef is in terminal decline due to poor returns and market and supply chain failures,” said Greed.

“We just cannot let this happen without fighting for a more stable future. We have to up our game and increase consumer awareness of why suckler beef is special due to a natural production system of grass, milk, nurturing beef breeds and glorious countryside.”

But while the pair fully supported dairy beef supply chains and the need to maintain volume in the marketplace, they added that there was very little product differentiation within the processing sector.

“Grass based suckler beef resonates with consumers not just in the UK but also across the world. Get the branding right and we could see a resurgence in suckler beef production in the UK and profitable returns,’ said Batters.