The idea of making the British livestock industry more self-sufficient in protein feed doesn’t work in reality, according to research findings from the University of Reading’s Centre for Agricultural Strategy (CAS).
Leader author of a new CAS research report, Philip Jones, said that while everyone would like to see Britain self-sufficient in meat and milk, the reality is that we do not currently produce enough protein to feed the animals we already farm, so the more livestock we produce, the more protein we have to import from abroad.
“Our study (CAS 19) shows that while it would be possible to replace up to half of imported protein in livestock diets with home grown equivalents, this would result in higher livestock feed costs, which would make our livestock sector less competitive and result in higher meat and milk prices in the shops,” he said.
The CAS research was carried out in response to calls to make the British livestock industry more self-sufficient in protein feed, much of which is currently shipped in from overseas in the form of soya meal. Environmental groups argue that some imported soya is produced at too high an environmental cost.
“The unfortunate fact is that there is no spare land in this country to produce more protein crops,” said Mr Jones. “So growing more protein crops would mean growing less of other types of crops, all of which also contain some protein. As a result, more protein crops would not mean more protein supply. In effect, more British protein feed will mean less British bread.”
The only solution, he added, would be to increase investment research to find crops that yield more protein per hectare, so producing more protein from the same area of land.