Tom Chanter: Local meat miles better than any vegan import

A new year, a new decade and a whole load of new challenges await an already strained industry.

Hopefully we are back on the political straight and narrow with the government working together rather than against each other, and any opportunities that may arise over the next 12 months are something to look forward to.

See also: Myth buster – the BBC’s anti-meat programme examined

Meanwhile, life goes on. Manufacturers of wet weather gear are probably seeing record profits, but there seem to be some crops looking OK – and some that we might close our eyes on for another few weeks.

Of course there are still stubbles that should have something productive growing in them; they will have to wait for springtime now.

At the time of writing, Extinction Rebellion are warming up for their protest at the Oxford Farming Conference and Channel 4 is about to broadcast another Meat – a threat to our planet-style documentary.

What will be next? The Great British Vegan Bake Off? Fingers crossed it’s better researched and gives a fairer argument than the BBC’s appalling efforts. (I won’t hold my breath!)

Miles ahead

This got me thinking about food miles, nutrients and how farming could still sell itself to those thinking about taking up a life with no meat in it.

In my former life as a livestock nutritionist one of the things I used to do regularly was work out the cost per unit of protein for different types of feed to find the best-value solution for the farmer.

This relatively easy calculation would often mean that the more expensive per-tonne feed actually worked out as the far cheaper option because of its higher quality.

You cannot tell me that flying in vegetable milk from Argentina is more eco-friendly than eating a burger from an animal grown and reared on your doorstep

I would love someone to apply this formula to meat-based protein versus plant-based protein and show just how much of the latter you’d have to consume to match the nutrient value of 100g of beef.

Add an “eat local” campaign to it, and hey presto – food miles drastically reduced and meat becomes the preferred option.

You cannot tell me that flying in vegetable milk from Argentina is more eco-friendly than eating a burger from an animal grown and reared on your doorstep.

Protein quality matters

We are now beginning to see a few articles from dieticians who say the quality of protein humans require is crucial – which is where red meat should win again.

This should also help another issue that is a real kick in the teeth: retailers selling our goods for below-cost prices. Dairy farmers have had to put up with this for years but now it seems to be happening to meat, cereal and vegetable produce.

Nothing is worse than seeing food used as a commodity to entice shoppers in-store in the hope they will buy other added-value products while they’re there.

It should of course be food that is the added-value product. However I hope with a bit of science and well thought-out arguments behind it, quality meat sourced locally and badged accordingly may just help to turn the tide.