The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) have appointed research consultants ADAS to deliver the £29,000 project, which will report early next year.
The project’s outcomes are expected to include recommendations on how a sustainability framework might better operate in Britain, as a first step towards putting beef and lamb supply chains in a position to actively promote their environmental credentials.
The work was financed from the £2m fund of AHDB red meat levies for collaborative projects, managed by the three meat levy bodies. This fund is an interim arrangement while a long-term solution is sought on the issue of levies being collected at point of slaughter in England for animals that have been reared in Scotland or Wales.
The work is in line with the Scottish Climate Change Plan proposals and the UK Committee on Climate Change’s progress report, which make significant demands on the farming sector to reduce its climate change impact.
In a joint statement, the levy boards said that “while the project anticipates increased pressure on the livestock sector to demonstrate its sustainability credentials in future – especially in light of the focus on public goods in the Agriculture Bill – it also seeks to highlight the positives of the UK’s predominantly grass-fed system”.
The project also seeks to emulate work done in other countries, such as Australia and Ireland, which involves mechanisms for reporting the progress of their agricultural supply chain in terms of environmental impacts. The project will include analysis of existing sustainability frameworks globally and assessment of their relevance to British livestock production.
It will identify the key components of these frameworks – such as greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and animal welfare – and the metrics associated with them to measure the current sustainability of beef and lamb production, track progress and compare with global competitors.
Sarah Baker, AHDB strategic insight manager, said: “To date, discussion has focused on the potential negative impacts of livestock on the wider environment, but we want to highlight the positives of livestock production to the environment and landscape, alongside social and economic benefits.
“This project is a critical first step towards the eventual development of a sustainability framework, so we can accurately measure the current and future impacts of livestock production in Great Britain.”
John Richards, HCC industry development and relations manager, said: “Our largely grass-fed and low-intensity livestock systems have a positive story to tell in terms of their environmental credentials. Understandably, the modern consumer demands food which impacts as little as possible on emissions and climate change, so this project will enable us to measure this accurately and have a well-evidenced case.”
Stuart Ashworth, director of economic services at QMS, said: “Sustainability credentials are increasingly being used to position product in a competitive market place. This project seeks to build a framework that will enable us to present the many positive contributions those involved in producing Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb make to sustainable ethical food production systems, while at the same time seeking to benchmark with global competitors.”