Meat v veggie

Meat itself is not the problem. The problem is the means of production the way we produce our food.

e.g the means we produce a lot of meat now – is described as ‘intensive’. This is where animals kept indoors and fed on food bought in – predominantly maize from East of Britain and Soya from South -America.($800m worth). So when Co-operative Retail advertise ‘100% British beef, we.have to ask whether a lot of that is fed on Brazilian Soya.

There is a strong argument that meat is the issue – and I hear it regularly. Some say you can only be revolutionary if you go Vegan. Yet a sustainability study in USA said vegan was not the most sustainable, but there needed to be a dairy/pasture meat element.

Against meat (apart form Animal Welfare/Ethical issue) producing animal calories takes about 10X as much a vegetable. But if the carrots are flown from South Africa, they require 500X. Meat needs a lot more water and they produce some of main GHGs..

But that is nowhere near the whole of the story. You have to take the land into account.

1. Vegetables and grain are grown on our best land – Grades 1 & 2. Grades 1 & 2 is the best land. Lancashire is a reflection of England in terms of land grades, good land in West Lancs – Hesketh Bank to Southport, while Grades 3& 4 – pasture and rough grazing is round Blackburn in East Lancashire. Grade 5 is the moors.

2 The grain and vegetable growing – arable - is wrecking those lands – significant losses of carbon over last 30 years, 2 mill tonnes of erosion every year.

3 Whereas animals on pasture land – poorer land (Grade 3&4) look after that land. There are twice the number of soil animals..

So drinking soya milk – imported across the world and wrecking Brazilian land (both ranch and rainforest) is hardly better for the environment than local dairy milk

4 The three main contributors to Global Warming form food and farming (Stern Report) are 3rd Methane, 2nd Nitrates 1st land use change. This is the change from forest to pasture and then from pasture to arable – where greatest soil loss – growing veg and grain. We took our trees down hundreds of years ago, and have the least tree cover in the EU.

5 Battle between veggies and carnivores goes back to biblical times...The argument between the carnivores and herbivores goes back to ‘Biblical Times’, as told in the story of Caen and Abel. Their father – Adam – said they should make a sacrifice to God. Abel was a shepherd so offered up a nice young lamb, while Cain who ploughed the land offered ‘burnt grasses’. This may have been bread, as this would be where and when wheat was first cultivated. God preferred the lamb. So Cain killed his brother. God sent him off to the land, East of Eden - from where the film gets its name. (The film plot changed a bit, so 'a wilful young man contends against his brother for the attention of their religious father'. James Dean played the wilful Cal (=Caen) to win him the first ever postumous Oscar). Despite this story being part of all the three main Abrahamic religions, is there an explanation of why God is a carnivore?


In any consideration of our present food system we have to factor in obesity. While it is a global problem, we are the fattest country in the EU women top, men third (behind Slovenia and Malta??). When we come out of the EU , we will loose that prize. Why is Britain so bad?

Much has to do with refining the food. The food industry mangles much goodness into sugary ‘crap’. The 1990s saw the biggest increases in consumption of processed and packaged food – as more women went to work, their jobs at home were taken by jobs in factories.

It is increasingly the same the world over. China is getting fatter – jumping dramatically in the last few years. While working for WHO on nutrition plans in Africa and Asia, saw the rise in globesity, we found more people ate more sugary foods and ate more on the move.

Since Dietary Guidelines we introduced in the early 1900s, obesity has risen year on years. These guidelines send out the message to eat less fat, aiming for 10% of our energy intake. Yet there is no evidence to support this view.

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott sing about in 'The Fat Man'.


If you are still in any doubts that the problem is over production – not a struggle to produce more food - look at the amount of food wasted both here and in the world. An estimated one-third of all food in Britain is wasted. Over a third is wasted in the fields, when supermarkets refuse to buy less

than perfect produce, apart from a few select schemes like Morrisons’ ‘wonky veg’ scheme. Another third is lost at home when we’ve been convinced by ‘3 for 2’ offers that we should buy more. ‘Sell by’ and ‘use by’ dates all help to create confusion where once our nose ruled and taste could tell if our food was still good to eat.

Yet alongside this appalling waste – I was bought up with ‘waste not want not’ in my ear during meals, there is the even greater indecency of food banks. There are now around 2000 with no sign of them going away.

The food dished out at food banks is not your healthy fresh variety but that given – minly by local food manufacturers, in tins or non perishable. In France there is a law preventing supermarkets throwing away waste food, but here on ly voluntary actions. One of which is to have ‘’larders’, where people can access fresher food without the humiliation of having to get permission to go to the food banks – either through state , church or doctor.


How to deal with overproduction is the root cause of many of the ills in the food sector.

Most people are bombarded with the idea that the world is overpopulated. And if not now, then when 9billion people arrive we will be. Yet there is food now to feed 14 billion. The problem – especially in Britain, has been of overproduction. We can easily produce enough food. The difficulty is making money doing that. No complaint there, as food producers should be properly rewarded. But capitalism has other ideas. It not only has to make a living, it has to accumulate capital, so it can make even more money. This voracious appetite has consequences on our food.

Food capital has a major problem with this, as whenever more food is produced, the price goes down. Like night follows day. You can see when there is a good apple harvest, the fruit rots on the ground. Way back in Shakespeare’s time he noticed this. In Macbeth the porter imagines himself at the doors of hell letting in a farmer who had committed suicide after a good harvest. Look in the Financial Times any day, and there will be stories of ‘Russia producing more grain than ever’ – 14-5% of world market compared to ten years ago, when only 2-3%. Prices plummeted, As a result grain prices flat. That is the norm – only in 2007-8 did this change when food speculators moved money from dodgy debts to more stable foodstuffs..

The USA is the great food and farm exporter and has been since WW2, when it go trid of much of its excess in the Marshall plan. It learnt to do the same with muc food aid – ‘giving’ food (which had to be paid back0 rather than giving money like the rest of us. In earlier Waht we eat’, you saw how the EU increased production so it was over produsing heavily by 1980s T o deal with that they pay out around $50 billion in subsidies. These prove the market doesn’t work, yet the economist keep claiming it does. And the USE subsidies its farmers to about the same amount. No wonder other countries have blocked the world deal called Doha for 20 years saying this is an unfair advantage and not ‘free trade’.

Because this contradiction between the food producers and the markets – something many agricultural scientist like myself and including John Boyd Orr First Head of FAo always said.

Journalist Ritchie Calder asked Boyd Orr why ‘he had a chip on his shoulder He politely explained:

half the population of the world suffer from lack of sufficient food while farmers suffer ruin if they produce ‘too much food’. Adjust our economic and political systems to let these two evils cancel each other out … A thousand million peasants and farmers in poverty because they cannot produce the s, in tins or

food the hungry need, or if they could, would face ruin because of something called ‘overproduction’. The world, through science and common sense, could produce the food. Think of the dividend, not only in farming prosperity, but in human well being!”

To deal with this food capital has been more efficient, more ruthless than most other sectors. And the main way to cut corners and cost sis to cut labour costs. Hence the dependence on EU migrant labour for much our food and farming – not just in the fields but in the ready meals factories, the chicken farms and abattoirs. Even among Vets..

Food Industry

Much of what you have covered so far is the farm element. Yet this occupies only around £10 b of spend, whereas whole food industry around £200 b

This is where we wreck much of our food. Most food coming off the land is good for us. Much of what we eat is not. In a previous lecture, you saw how David Beckham was advertising coke – that has no nutritional value; yet sports people should be advertising milk – much better at muscle recovery.

On the environmental front we ignore the proportion contributed by the manufacturing.

But this is the most important environmental aspect. We import nearly half our food, but in so doing the environmental impacts are disproportionate. 70% of land used to grow is abroad. 66% of our farm GHGs are produced abroad. I haven’t got the water figures but something like 20 Niles worth of water is used to grow and fly vegetables from Africa to Europe. They need that water a whole lot more than we do. Other big imports include soya, corn and rice. All our beans for baked beans are imported.

So far the greening of CAP, doesn’t t begin to address the big issue of global warming. Food and farming – despite contributing around a fifth of all GHGs are not required to do anything to reduce emissions, and are not part of Emissions Trading Scheme..whereas most other sectors are – esp


All class had voted to Remain.

How many of you believe you understand the consequences for food and farming? I don’t believe many did when voting.

Let’s look at three main aspects

1. Coming away from the Institutions and laws

2. Single Market

3. Customs Union


40 % of all EU Directives and Regulations apply to food and Farming. At present DEFRA is trying to transfer those into britiah law.. they are having difficulties as they have been downsized and don’t have the staff. So staf form other departments have been bought in , but know little about food farming and the environment. I have heard that several of the big food manufacturers have offered their own researcher to DEFRA – for free.

Directives are hard to alter – but have usually some UK legislation as a result of them already in place. The regulations will be harder, as many include EU Institutions in their remit. Eg Pesticide regulations include the EU body EFSA, who ‘approve’ a pesticide’ prior to use deciding on its application/labelling. We could do both, but it will increase costs.

Here are some of the issues that will now be devolved to UK level. Approval of GM crops, approval of Glyphosate and Neonicotinoid insecticides. How will that be now determined – through existing ‘expert’ committees or the ‘peoples’ will’? See Chapters in Bittersweet Brexit for more.

We will also stop receiving CAP subsidies. In previous weeks you have seen how the funding comes a Pillar 1 – just looking after the kand and Pillar 2 some small environmental improvements. Every landowner with more than 10 acres gets about £100/acre. That means the more land you have the more you get. Locally, the Duke of Westminster collects around £400,000/year for his estates in the Trough of Bowland and Cheshire. When I said he got that money for ‘doing nothing’ the head of his Estate wrote to say he was ‘disappointed’ in me opening up the debate like this. So I wriote back asking him to debate with him at his Estate, or preferably the Inn at Whitewell. I have yet to get a reply from 2 months ago. His neighbour the Queen gets about £1/3 million for much the same effort.

I propose in Bittersweet Brexit that this money would be much better spent by paying workers on the land. The same sort of money could pay 300,000 workers about £10,000 a year – much more like a living wage.

By doing this we could tie the circle of having cheap food but also decent wages. Hopefully this would encourage you ng people to work on the land – something they clearly do not want to do at presnt, witness the reliance on EU Migrant labour.