15th April 2011

Scottish Livestock Production is Unsung Hero of Food Sustainability Debate

The Scottish sheep and cattle industry may well emerge as the unsung hero of the food production sustainability debate, according to Quality Meat Scotland chairman, Jim McLaren.

Speaking at the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers’ annual meeting in Edinburgh, Mr McLaren said there was a growing body of scientific support highlighting the sustainability of production systems, such as those found in Scotland, where beef and lamb is produced on a largely grass-fed diet.

Mr McLaren said recently published research by Professor Mike Wilkinson of Nottingham University’s School of Biosciences, revealed that spring-calving/grass-finishing upland suckler beef and lowland lamb production were highly efficient on an edible feed conversion basis.

“What that means, in effect, is that our largely grass-based production system in Scotland is a much more efficient means of producing food than has previously been recognised. Our livestock production systems make the most of land which could not be used to produce other types of food for people.

“Looking at the figures for the UK as a whole about 42 million tonnes of grass and forage crop dry matter was estimated to have been used in 2008 – 2009 in the production of meat and milk from ruminants. Much of this land would otherwise be a largely inaccessible resource for the production of human food,” added Mr McLaren.

Pointing out that QMS would continue to work hard on behalf of the Scottish red meat industry to identify technology to further improve feed efficiency, Mr McLaren also highlighted a newly-published QMS discussion paper.

The paper, “Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Scottish Livestock Enterprises”, published this month highlights the clear link between low greenhouse gas emissions and strong technical performance on Scottish livestock farms.

Scottish farmers, said Mr McLaren, have already made a significant contribution to lower GHG emissions in Scotland with emissions from rural land use (excluding woodland) reducing by 12.5% between 1990 and 2006.

The discussion paper is available to download at here. Alternatively for a free copy please call QMS on 0131 472 4040.

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