Livestock that primarily live on pasture are an essential part of sustainable farming systems. They provide nutrient dense meat and milk, as well as sustainable fibres such as wool, from the grass and legume plants that would be inedible to humans.
Livestock production has received a lot of criticism in recent years. People are rightly concerned about the devastating impact of industrial farming, with animals often housed in cramped conditions and fed largely on grain which contributes significantly to deforestation and climate change.
These farming systems must be phased out, which would see significant changes in our diets. We would shift away from intensively produced ‘cheap’ meat, particularly chicken and pork, and instead eat meat, such as beef and lamb, from mainly pasture-based systems, with occasional chicken and pork from much higher welfare systems.
In contrast to their industrial counterparts, these high welfare, pasture-based systems can:
- help to restore or maintain ecosystems;
- build natural soil fertility;
- provide habitats for biodiversity;
- maintain cherished landscapes;
- produce nutritious food from marginal land.
As consumers, we have an important role to play in using our buying power to encourage more ethical and sustainable livestock production. We therefore need to differentiate between livestock that are part of the problem (primarily intensively reared and grain-fed) and high welfare livestock systems that can be a vital part of the solution to many of the crises we face today, including climate change, biodiversity decline and poor public health.
Photos by Jason Taylor and Patrick Barbour
Key areas of focus
Local abattoirs are essential for local food and high welfare, sustainable farming systems. We have campaigned since 2018 to make sure small, local abattoirs are supported for the future.The Food and Farming Transition
The Role of Livestock in Future Farming Systems
Do livestock hold the key to a healthy planet and population? This short film features Joel Salatin, renowned livestock farmer and owner of Polyface Farm in Virginia in US.
Rebuilding soil with livestock: one farmer’s story
This film is about Duncan Leaney, a conventional tenant farmer near Taunton in Somerset who realised his farm was no longer viable due to the increasing costs of inputs such as chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The introduction of livestock was essential to boost fertility and productivity without the use of chemicals.