A different kind of food waste
By Rosewood Farm, Nov 4 2015 12:52PM
Food waste hit the headlines recently, with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall highlighting the issue by standing beside a pile of 20 tonnes of perfectly edible parsnips that were rejected by the supermarkets. Knowing that a significant proportion of those crops will never make it to the plate is gut-wrenching for us, as growing annual crops involves so many resources such as fuel and pesticides along with the inevitable exposure of the soil to the destructive elements. We shouldn’t be wasting good food and we shouldn’t produce food that is not to be eaten, as the land could be put to much better uses.
I care deeply about the landscapes & environment around us and I’m excited to be building biodiversity, feeding more people and putting life back into our soils here at Rosewood.
World population may be rising but we are still manage to grow so many vegetables that we eat only the best looking ones. This abundance is only possible because the UK imports the balance, 40%, of its food requirements from other countries. At the same time society is becoming increasingly aware of the impact we have upon the earth it seems crazy to be producing and importing food to throw so much away.
Meat has received some bad press in recent years with many organisations, such as the UN, urging us to eat less meat in order to cut down on the amount of wasted food. And here in the UK we are indeed taking this advice and eating less meat but the unintended consequences are having a devastating effect on the nation’s meadows and wildlife.
As a direct consequence of land use change, biodiversity (the number and variety of plants and animals in our environment) is in decline. The total area of UK wildflower meadows has reduced by 97% since the second world war, yet we have retained a large expanse of the remaining 3% here in the Lower Derwent Valley. The problem is that despite many of these meadows being protected by law as SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) and SPAs (Special Protection Areas), they remain under threat from a lack of appropriate management.
At Rosewood Farm we first started breeding pedigree cattle 20 years ago, with the addition of sheep six years later. Our intention was to develop a low input system utilising semi-natural grasslands to produce tasty, sustainable meat. The method requires none of the artificial inputs that are used to produce the majority of annual crops today and actually puts carbon back into the soil. What makes the present situation worse is that these rejected parsnips would make the perfect culinary accompaniment for our Dexter beef & Kerry Hill lamb.
Bred as grazing animals our cattle and sheep are in high demand from other farmers and Natural England to manage the wide variety of local biodiverse grasslands, from damp, peaty water meadows to dry heathy pastures.
The beauty of the Rosewood Farm way is that increasing the numbers of livestock and carefully managing their grazing is both ecologically beneficial and feeds more people. More livestock = more carbon in the soil = more food produced.
The one natural input that has the biggest effect and is impossible to replace is time. Growing plants transfer carbon from the atmosphere to our soils: the regular natural cycle of grass growth and root die-back after grazing keeps pumping the carbon underground and building organic soil mass, which in turn encourages healthy plants.
A plant that reaches full size stops growing and stops the process of carbon transfer. Without the essential grazing, plants do still follow the carbon cycle but at a much slower rate due to the less regular growth associated with mature plants and less carbon is transferred to the soil.
Rosewood Farm’s traditional breeds of cattle and sheep are of a size & nature that makes them perfectly suited to grazing the old Ings pastures and meadows alongside the River Derwent and Pocklington Canal. However, like Hugh’s wonky parsnips, supermarkets have specific specifications for meat which concentrate purely upon size & shape of the carcass so you won’t find our tasty, sustainable produce on their shelves.
Producing and retailing our own produce via our website gives us full control over exactly what happens to our animals and the food they produce. It is much easier to maintain complete traceability and good high welfare with animals slaughtered at the opposite side of the road to the fields they graze.
I have to go and tend our cattle now, but I'll leave you with this thought; in Hugh's War on Waste he mentions that the average UK household discards almost £15 of edible food every week - that's more than the cost of one whole monthly meat box from Rosewood.