Concentrate on the positives

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In today’s society farmers are under severe scrutiny and are constantly criticized for their farming practices, writes James McCluggage.

The month of January is renowned for a time of change, when people try to adapt to healthier lifestyle choices. The UFU respects personal decisions when it comes to individual diets however, to single out and demonise the livestock industry to promote another lifestyle is wrong.

I mentioned in my previous blog that it cannot be underestimated how fascinated the general public are with the agri food industry. Other parties have wrongly interpreted and generated misinformation about NI’s farming story and we have not had the chance to tell our side of the tale. There is a massive captive audience out there to win and the month of January is a huge opportunity to do so.

So far 350,000 people worldwide have signed up to this year’s #Veganuary. This is around 100,000 more than 2019. Estimates would suggest 1% of British adults are vegan and around 3% are vegetarian.  If we equate that on a global scale this is 0.00005% of the world’s population.  Yes, there is a lot of media coverage, but a sense of scale and perspective is important when in contrast meat consumption globally continues to rise regardless.

People are losing sense of this 1%, although it is interesting that processed food companies are trying hard to gain market share and margin by selling ‘plant-based’ products. If you create more products and options you potentially create more demand, a self-serving cycle from a business and financial point of view.  Recent Kantar consumer shopping stats revealed that 92% of plant-based meals consumed in 2018 in the UK, were eaten by non-vegans. Essentially this is massive margins for retailers.

A recent Farmers Guardian article published research from AHDB, which showed farmers are by far the most trusted link in the food supply chain (71%) with only 6% disagreeing with the sentiment. 62% of people feel positive about UK agriculture and only 5% are negative towards it.

In the last year 98% of UK households bought red meat while 99.8% bought a dairy product. As mentioned in the Farmers Guardian, these figures are higher than the number of households that bought loo roll. This is an outstanding figure and a great news story that we must remind ourselves of as primary producers.

I have read numerous articles over the past few weeks that a plant-based diet is necessary to avert climate disaster. We must never forget that grazed livestock are a key element of sustainable food and farming systems.

There is no bad food but there are bad diets. Red meat has become vilified when in fact it is one of the finest proteins we can consume and should be ate as part of a healthy balanced diet.

We can let the Veganuary movement get our heckles up, but why not concentrate on the positives about our local, environmentally friendly, high welfare standard, low carbon footprint produce that we proudly produce as farmers and growers.