James Herrick: Farmers should question their preconceptions

A popular topic of conversation between farmers is misconceptions about agriculture. It gets people, myself included, all riled up. 

Often it’s simply misunderstandings about the complexity of an issue that, to the unexposed onlooker, seems to have a rather simple conclusion: “Cows are killing the planet” or “farmers are all rich”, to name just two.

See also: James Herrick – cattle should be functional, not flashy

About the author

James Herrick
James Herrick is based on his family’s suckler beef and arable farm in Leicestershire. A passionate conservationist, he’s keen on using technology to maximise agriculture’s profitability and lessen its impact on the environment. Away from the farm he likes to compete in triathlons and endurance races.
Read more articles by James Herrick

But at other times it can come with real, tangible malice. The trouble is, I’m not sure we, as farmers, are any better.

I was recently fortunate enough to head to Anuga in Cologne, Germany – the world’s largest food and drink trade fair. 

My purpose for visiting was to further understand what goes into the exporting of beef, lamb and pork produced in the UK.

I was also able to compare our processing and packaging systems with those of the world’s biggest players in the red meat industry. 

I was fortunate enough to speak to Dan and Monty, who work for the Cattleman’s Beef Board (the US equivalent of AHDB for beef) and we got on to the subject of US beef exports to the UK and the issue of hormone-treated beef.

They explained that the widely held view that the UK market gets undermined by these products isn’t correct.

The cost of production in the US means they can’t afford to compete with UK home-produced meat, and they aren’t able to export hormone-treated beef at all.

Similarly, representatives from Argentina explained how post-Brexit rules had made it much more difficult, both financially and logistically, for them to access the UK market. 

We also spoke to processors who specialise in halal slaughter, who explained the reasoning behind both stunned and non-stun halal slaughter and dispelled many of the myths you often hear about the practice. 

I could go on. My point is that we can’t expect people with limited understanding of our industry to question hearsay when we don’t always do it ourselves. After all, scepticism is the chastity of the intellect.