Beef produced on farms across the British Isles is widely recognised as being amongst the most sustainable in the world. This is evidenced by the fact that its carbon footprint of approximately half of the global average. Nonetheless, results of a multi-year study involving over 4,000 animals at ABP’s Demonstration Farms in Shropshire and in Ireland have shown that the level of methane emissions could be reduced by up to 40% against ABP’s current average, when a more data-driven approach is applied across the supply chain.
The findings were presented by ABP at this year’s City Food Lecture. The study shows that by using a data-driven approach to selective breeding, it is possible to encourage the siring of beef animals that are more efficient at converting feed to protein, reaching their target weight earlier and thereby significantly reducing their environmental footprint.
In addition to the environmental benefits, farmers could improve their economic returns by up to £100 per head – demonstrating that economic and environmental sustainability can travel hand in hand.
Dean Holroyd, ABP’s Technical and Sustainability Director, said: “The purpose of this work is to demonstrate what can be achieved on a typical farm. By harnessing data and information across the entire supply chain from conception to plate this research shows we can further improve economic and environmental performance of UK beef farmers in a global marketplace while also satisfying changing consumer desires for more sustainable diets.”
The results are part of the first phase of the study which has focused on breeding. The next phase will focus on the adoption of a ‘whole farm’ approach which will capture the latest thinking in animal grazing, precision agriculture, land management and biodiversity. This will be conducted with the help of independent experts and Harper Adams University and will also include ABP sponsoring a Professorship in Sustainable Beef and Sheep Production at Harper Adams University. The recruitment process for this role is underway.