Going against the Grain: why Britain should be embracing and expanding the market for grass-fed meat and dairy
A growing concern from consumers about the health credentials of the food they eat, a desire to understand where it comes from and a global need for sustainable farming practices, has seen demand for certified 100% grass-fed products across the USA grow at an annual rate of 25-30%. Science has shown 100% grass-fed ruminant meat and dairy to be healthier for humans, animals and the environment. Despite this increase in the US market, the UK is still trying to understand the benefits of grass-fed: indeed, many UK farmers believe we are too far down the industrialised path to turn back the clock.
The aim of my report was to determine what drives the growth of the grass-fed movement around the world, what the future holds for ruminant meat and dairy production, to better understand the benefits of producing, consuming and retailing grass-fed, and to ultimately realise the potential of growing this market in the UK.
I travelled across the USA and Australia, as these countries demonstrate a strong grass-fed production history and the market in both countries is huge. I visited producers, retailers and processors advocating 100% grass-fed farming methods to discover the potential that these methods could offer in the UK in terms of soil regeneration, human and animal health benefits and a sustainable method of feeding the human population.
Although we are perfectly suited for raising ruminants in terms of climate, the model which has been successfully implemented across USA and Australia still remains largely untapped in the UK.
As consumer demand increases for healthy foods, low ‘food miles’, and improved animal welfare, this demand has the ability to drive future farming practices in the UK.
My findings show that with a focus on stronger marketing techniques, particularly in the area of health and environmental benefits, together with a collective of farmers to drive forward and promote grassfed ideals, the grass-fed movement has the potential to thrive in the UK.
We must ensure product integrity with the adoption of carcass grading standards that consider eating quality, and certification marks for 100% grass-fed meat. Developing market differentiation in the UK for 100% grass-fed meat and dairy will provide farmers with a premium.
There are many opportunities for farmers and consumers open to the UK by using these grass-fed methods, and much is to be gained in terms of increasing biodiversity and soil fertility.
Consumers need to be encouraged to eat less but better quality meat and dairy products. Grass-fed producers must raise awareness through farm visits and retail strategies. We must capitalise on our natural assets as much of the UK could be used for this method of farming, and a critical mass of certified 100% grass-fed ruminant meat and dairy farmers is needed to enable the launch of a national 100% grass-fed brand.
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