June 2014: A month of contrasts, ending on a high

The start of May saw two bodies seeking to raise awareness of global impacts arising from meat production and consumption. The first came in the form of an executive summary report from the UN Economic Commission for Europe’s Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen (UNECE), which looks at our nitrogen footprint.

The full report is still not available, but thankfully it has received little coverage and not been too much of a distraction. While raising valid points, it appears slightly simplistic in its interpretation, looking at meat as the main product and omitting the full range of products and services derived from livestock production.

The second came from leading academics in Europe starting an online debate asking if Europeans should be encouraged to eat more sustainably. It’s a valid point, and something we at BPEX are working on, from production through to consumers and education. We’re striving for responsible consumption and cutting waste of the product into which so much care and attention has gone.

As we’re not self-sufficient in pig products, and with an expanding population, this approach is needed for driving market share and resilience. The debate has generated limited interest, suggesting this matter is not high on the agenda of most Europeans.

A big thank you to all who came to meet us at the Pig Fair, and apologies to those who missed us. It was good to see familiar and new faces. There was a buzz in the air and this carried through to the nature of enquiries received.

In previous years, IPPC, NVZs and the Environment Agency have dominated discussions, but this year was different. It was much more positive with the focus on new buildings, straw or slatted, how to go about getting planning and what’s needed to get into IPPC.

A number of people also asked how to move on to the next level, with low-emissions buildings, implementing new technologies and so on. There’s an appetite for investment, but a concern about getting it right, as today’s decisions have to be lived with for a long time.

On the less positive side is CAP reform, especially for outdoor producers who still face uncertainty as all the rules are still not out, and arable farmers have still to decide how they will implement “Greening,” which then affects others in the rotation.

Having to present to a live audience is something I don’t look forward to, however on both days of the Pig Fair we had a good attendance at the BPEX pig industry outlook forum and the audience was kind at question time; again, thank you.

Straight after the fair it was off to Flanders to see low-emission housing systems in use and talk to the farmers who have to implement them. The good news was the systems they have do seem to work, provided the detail is correct. This is just as well, as the regional government stipulates what systems farmers can use down to the width of slurry channels and the amount of natural light.

> Nigel Penlington joined BPEX in 2004 and is the organisation’s environment programme manager. He specialises in environmental issues affecting the UK pig industry and production technology

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