On Monday an eager crowd assembled at our Notting Hill farmshop to hear an expert panel debate the question of eating less meat, but better quality.

We often use the phrase “from farm to fork” at Daylesford and the range of expertise on the panel really brought this philosophy to life. Environmental Scientist Tim Field held court when discussing the impact of our diets and eating habits on our soil health, the countryside and farming communities. Rose Prince and Lizzie King drew on their notable careers as food writers to share their extensive knowledge of food, cooking and culture. Eve Kalinik and Rhaya Jordan spoke about their experiences as nutritionists working with people with various backgrounds, dietary needs and health concerns.

Below are some notes from the evening’s discussion. If you would like to watch it in full, you can do so over on our FACEBOOK PAGE.

The next Daylesford Discusses will be on Monday 14th May from 6:30pm at our Marylebone farmshop and will focus on Organic Beauty. It’s free to attend and we hope you can come along. More information here.


TIM FIELD, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST AND HEAD OF SUSTAINABILITY AT DAYLESFORD

  • Nature has been rearing animals for a very long time, we’ve been eating meat from the land with domesticated livestock for millennia. It is only recently that we have been producing beyond the capabilities of our planetary boundaries.
  • Meat can be sustainable but not how it is currently being farmed in mainstream systems. So, the answer to the question “is meat sustainable” is, it depends.
  • Since the Second World War we’ve taken the production of meat far from sustainable systems. New fertilisers, chemicals and modern farming techniques fundamentally changed agriculture – then we had a surge of growth in the population which increased supply & demand.
  • People do not realise that actually, a lot of livestock farming is contributing to fixing carbon in the soil. If you got rid of ruminants and their soil-nourishing manure, you’d have unworkable land – or a land that would require huge amounts of artificial chemicals and fertiliser to produce. Rearing livestock ensures the cycling of nutrients and builds fertility in the soil so that plants, crops and pastures can thrive.
  • We can’t feed the world organically with current behaviours of consumption. We are wasting 30% of food, eating too much – and at the same time 1 billion people are under-nourished. We only have 30, 40 or 50 harvests left in our soil. We need to recycle the nutrients in the soil and by using livestock as part of a healthy rotation, grow more seasonal, local plants and crops in nourished, fertile soil.
  • Want to save the bees? Eat some organic beef. The animals graze a profile of herb-rich grass pastures and forage, full of the likes of flowering clover, sainfoin and much more. You can’t do the same with monoculture crops like oilseed rape or maize throughout the year due to their short flowering window. Monoculture crops and a lack of diversity is killing our countryside, insects and natural pollinators.
  • Game is incredibly nutrient-dense meat that should feature in our diets more: wild animals thriving in their environment, grazing grass or foraging from hedgerows. One cannot imagine the British Isles without deer, pigeon and rabbit culling.
  • I would like to see the government and farmers look into the possibility of subsidies for farmers that rewards nutritional value delivered per hectare, not just yields.
  • We talked about the Health and Harmony document from DEFRA that is currently under consultation, this needs to be less fluffy and we need to see more of a focus on health

ROSE PRINCE, FOOD WRITER, AUTHOR, COOK AND ACTIVIST

  • If you look at patterns in meat consumption, the way we use meat has changed. When our agriculture changed, we lost “grandmother skills” and knowledge of how to use an animal in its entirety, not waste a scrap, the respect for the animal and environment. It is difficult to replace those skills. This passing of information is very much a verbal tradition, we can write book after book but unless you start quite young you won’t learn in the same way. I was very lucky!
  • You need good governance to teach those skills but then you are accused of “nannying”.
  • The way meat is produced now in mainstream farming is making us sick. Not feeding natural ruminants (cows) grass makes them sick – and then us. The way beef is reared in USA has contributed to the obesity epidemic. If animals are not fed naturally, this changes their muscle and their very genetics, which consequently impacts us.
  • We don’t eat old animals any more. Mutton melts when slow cooked and is so nourishing.
  • People really are busy today and the often don’t have the hours required to cook the more sustainable, “extreme” cuts of meat. A solution is to look at how you can cook some extreme cuts quickly e.g. skirt/bavette steak can be flash-fried in a pan and does not need low & slow cooking.
  • The issue really does need to come back to governance. We need more than 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Doctors should get more nutritional training.
  • Research done by the University of Michigan has shown that the healthiest diets are ones that centre around diversity and seasonality, such as in Burgundy, France.

RHAYA JORDAN, RESIDENT NUTRITIONIST AT DAYLESFORD

  • Meat is no longer an expensive treat but something that is eaten casually, every day, in the street now.
  • Maybe we need to dump all labels like vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian?
  • Only 5% of agriculture in the UK is fruit and vegetables for human consumption.
  • It’s a myth that supermarkets respond to consumer demand; these retailers are incredibly powerful and have a huge impact on shopping behaviours.

LIZZIE KING, NUTRITIONAL HEALTH COACH, AUTHOR AND FOUNDER OF LIZZIE LOVES HEALTHY

  • There seems to be a strange sense of entitlement now: if you want to eat something, you go out and get it.
  • It’s about what meat we eat and how we eat it.
  • Try to rethink your plate and treat meat as a “side” next to pulses, vegetables etc
  • Make small changes, start by adding extra fruit/veg to your lunch, rely on store cupboard basics such as dried pulses. You don’t need to be a brilliant chef.

EVE KALINIK, NUTRITIONIST AND FOOD WRITER

  • There is no perfect answer and more education is needed.
  • I believe the surge of veganism and interest in plant-based food is a good thing because it is raising awareness of alternatives that are available.
  • Many nutritional findings that are reported are sensationalised and often flawed. They often don’t take every factor into consideration e.g. quality of overall diet, lifestyle, stress
  • The food pyramid hasn’t changed in 30 years despite many studies that contradict that way of thinking.
  • The media can be confusing but it has had a positive impact. For example, social media influencers and cookery programmes are showing food that is more veg-centric, with rarer cuts of meat.

This initiative supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.