Word of Mouth: Britain’s first milk factory

2nd March 2010 The Guardian Online

cows in a cowshed

Photograph: Rex Features

Is the plan to open an industrial feed-lot in Lincolnshire another unavoidable nail in the coffin of the British dairy industry?

The move by a group of English farmers to open the UK’s first American-style industrial dairy feed-lot – where 8,100 cows will be fed on maize and Lucerne, a form of alfalfa – was desperately predictable. The evidence has been mounting – for the want of a couple of pence on a litre of milk, we’ve destroyed our traditional, and highly efficient, dairy industry.

Britain has had a dairy industry based on cows fed on grass and kept for most of the year in fields, for millennia. You may have noticed – much of our countryside was shaped by it. It worked. It employed lots of people, and provided cheap protein and fats to the entire population.

Read the rest here via Guardian Online

Word of Mouth: Will turning vegetarian save the planet?

24th February 2010, The Guardian Online

Even committed carnivores can’t dodge the facts: we’re going to have to cut down on the red stuff. A bit.

“If one cares about the environment, one must care about eating animals … Someone who regularly eats factory-farmed products cannot call himself an environmentalist without divorcing that word from its meaning.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

The numbers look pretty unarguable. So much so that – as a senitive meat-eating, trying-hard green – I have to ask if Safran Foer is being too soft: can any meat-eater at all call themselves an environmentalist?

Livestock agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions than every train, truck, car and aeroplane put together. The resources consumed by one average omnivore in pursuit of animal protein would nourish as many as 10 vegetarians (there’s lots of argument about this stat – some would put the ratio higher). So, shift people’s diets and the planet can support more people – in fact, it will quite easily deal with the 9.2 billion at which population is currently forecast to peak in about 40 years’ time, even with the threat to agriculture that climate change poses.

Read more here at The Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog

Word of Mouth: The parable of the slaughtered lamb

12th February 2010, Guardian Online

the slaughtered lamb parable

Lambs. Photo: Alamy

Should children be taught about where meat comes from, or is it better that they come to realise the realities of rearing and slaughter later in life?

Utterly mad and particularly British is this week’s story of a Kent head teacher forced from her job because she slaughtered the school farm’s lamb.

Andrea Charman had thought it a good way of teaching the children about the agricultural economy and the food cycle, and they agreed. But then some of their parents started social network campaigns to rescue the lamb. It took off. The lamb was duly slaughtered, the threats began and now she has quit. The lamb – Marcus – has had his revenge.

Word of Mouth: Baby steps towards better regulation

14th January 2010, Guardian Website

A rebuff for Heinz over an outrageous baby formula TV ad is bad news for food corps and their ever-more-sophisticated tweaks of parental guilt. But Heinz needs a proper spanking.

Heinz has received an embarrassing ticking-off from the Advertising Standards Authority for the nauseating TV advert for its baby milk, Nurture, above. The ASA said on Monday that the claim that the formula would support growth in the brain, body and immune system of a baby was “unsubstantiated” and “unacceptable”.

Campaigners for honest food are delighted. This is a boost in the next front in the long-running war over children’s food claims: promises that food supplements can aid mental development. (How long-running? In the 1890s John Harvey Kellogg said that his cornflakes would prevent masturbation in young men, while in 1903 Grape Nuts promised a cure for malaria and loose teeth.)

Read the rest of this post at the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog.