The research, part of the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme which draws together the social and natural science, concluded that pasture-based farming is good for the environment, the consumer and the producer but needs stronger support from British policy makers if it is to realise its full potential.
Detailed analysis of the nutritional qualities of the plant species present on the natural grasslands showed that they provided grazing animals with a richer more diverse diet than the improved pastures used for more intensive farming. And this richer diet translated into tastier meat.
The taste panels rated biodiverse beef from cattle breeds such as Longhorn - a traditional breed particularly well adapted to unimproved grassland environments – to be more tender and more flavour intense than meat from conventional breeds.
Chemical analysis showed that the meat from animals with a more biodiverse diet was healthier too. Meat from wild-grazed lambs, particularly those grazed on heather, had higher levels of the natural antioxidant, vitamin E, than meat from animals grazed on improved grass land. It also had higher levels of healthy fatty acids including the long chain omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, thought to play a key role in brain development and to protect against heart disease. And higher levels of the anti-carcinogenic compound, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) were found in meat from lambs grazed on moorland and Longhorn cattle grazed on unimproved pastures than in control meat.
The study was inspired by observations of French rural communities where there is a long standing tradition of associating the ecological quality of the land with the quality of the food produced on it. As Professor Henry Buller of Exeter University and leader of the research team, explains: “Many French farmers actively maintain the biodiversity of their grasslands in order to protect the future of the high quality food produced from it. We wanted to know if this approach could provide a model for more sustainable farming in the UK.”
Although intensive agriculture dominates the British countryside, a growing number of farms are using natural and species-rich grasslands such as salt marshes, heather and moorland to graze cattle, sheep and lambs.
Professor Buller points out that the French have a long history of linking the qualities of a particular area with high value produce through such schemes as the Appellation d’Origine Controlée and more recently through the Protected Food Names legislation introduced in 1993 by the European Union.
The findings from the focus groups in this study showed clearly that consumers are increasingly willing to pay for food with links to natural sounding places. But Britain has been very slow to take advantage of place-based labelling schemes – while France has 52 protected designations for meat products, the UK has only 8.
According to Professor Buller both producers and policy makers should give serious attention to the way we label and promote local foods in the UK. There should be targeted support to help groups of farmers to work together to link the natural qualities of biodiverse grasslands to areas larger than individual farms:
“The British notion of local has become far too fixed on distance. Locality should be about the quality of the place and the relationship between the agricultural and ecological landscape,” he says.
Danielle Moore | alfa
Alkaline soil, sensible sensor
03.08.2017 | American Society of Agronomy
New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences