'Food choices need to be based on rational science rather than emotive and irrational arguments'

Scientific: Pasture-fed sheep have a key role to play in a healthy diet and in sustainable farming systems
Scientific: Pasture-fed sheep have a key role to play in a healthy diet and in sustainable farming systems
Tommy Boland

Tommy Boland

The long summer evenings allows time for contemplation and over the recent past we have witnessed a lot of discussion about the negative aspects of red meat production, and the potential for alternative meats, or 'lab-grown meats' to replace the need for red meat production.

There are many claims in this discussion that are pro alternative meats and anti-red meat production (or livestock farming).

Many of these arguments simply don't stack up.

If I were to approach investors in the 'alternative protein' sector with a new technology that converts non-edible carbohydrates and non-protein nitrogen into high quality, highly bioavailable protein and calories and micro-nutrients, what would their reaction be?

Especially when this technology also operates in a self-sustaining and self-replicating production system that supports biodiversity and sustains rural communities, contributes to tourism and the green image of our country do you think they'd be interested?

I think so! I think they'd jump at the opportunity to invest!

At the same time, this technology also produces a high quality fibre ideally suited for clothing and upholstery, as a by-product, sequestering carbon in this fibre and in the soils on which the feedstock is sourced.

It sounds too good to be true! This technology has the potential to support tens of thousands of jobs and contribute hundreds of millions of euro in exports each year - it's a win-win-win scenario.

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This technology exists, but we don't call it a 'technology' we call it, or more appropriately them, SHEEP (Sustainable Healthy Environmentally Efficient Protein).

They have existed for millions of years and contributed to food production for thousands of years.

However, recently they have become somewhat vilified as have the farmers who farm them. Why? Because we are now being told that red meat is bad!

Bad for you, bad for the environment, bad for soils, Bad! While not trying to pretend there is not room for improvement, pasture fed meat has a key role to play in a healthy diet, as a source of protein and key micronutrients and in sustainable farming systems. We also need to factor in the consumption of forages and by-products from food and bio-ethanol production.

Humans have evolved to be omnivorous, and red meat consumption has played a key role in this evolution.

While we must respect people's right to choose to not consume red meat, let's not allow the argument to be clouded by irrationality. Rather, let's base our decisions on a rigorous scientific examination of the available data.

On the farm

The first of the lambs were slaughtered from the main flock at Lyons yesterday, with factory performance unavailable at the time of writing. Five of these are from the pet pen, with the remainder of them coming from the main flock.

The triplet lambs are continuing to graze the redstart and performance is good.

There is an average lamb weight in this group of 36.5kg, and they grew at 260 grams per day over the last two weeks. The performance of the Redstart itself is also looking good. The second grazing has started with a pre-grazing yield of 4,200kg Dm per ha.

A further five rams were purchased for the flock from the Vendeen sale on July 13.

All rams are 5 star on both the terminal and replacement index, but our focus at the moment is on the terminal index as all lambs produced on the farm are destined for slaughter, with no replacements being retained from within the farm.

Routine foot bathing is continuing within the flock, with scald causing some minor issues.

It was our intention to dip the ewes also, but it is proving almost impossible to source non-OP dips. For this reason will use a pour on and injectable approach to control ectoparasites this year.


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