In this blog post, Future Farmer and Barnsley butcher Daniel Binns reports on his experience attending this year’s virtual Oxford Real Farming Conference, courtesy of a bursary from Future Farmers of Yorkshire.
Firstly, I would like to thank Future Farmers and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society for giving me the opportunity to attend the ORFC 2021, an event which otherwise would not have been brought to my attention.
For me, the most beneficial part of the conference was being able to relate concepts to my own business and seeing agriculture from different angles.
For example, in the panel discussion “agroecology across three continents”, Paul Holmbeck, director of Holmbeck Eco-Consult, talks about the support for consumer awareness as a method to increase popularity in the organic food sector.
I hope I can recreate this idea within my own business, to ensure my customers are aware of exactly where their meat comes from and support the importance of farming sustainably.
Importance of smaller abattoirs
I enjoyed the discussion on making small scale abattoirs more sustainable, which was led by Patrick Holden, founder and chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust.
This was a key topic for me as I deal with small scale abattoirs and I see a direct impact they have on the need for locally sourced food.
The many positive points which are central to the fundamentals of my business were highlighted during this talk.
I feel the small-scale abattoirs are largely overlooked in the importance of small scale, locally produced produce (which was mentioned in various other talks throughout the conference).
Small-scale abattoirs are key to sustainable meat production. I thought the speaker from FSA gave a very refreshing opinion on the subject, she talked about a more distributed slaughterhouse network being more resilient, something I feel is even more important with the burden of COVID-19.
Being a frequent user of smaller scale abattoirs, I can offer a first-hand account of the benefits, in particular a more approachable method of processing produce, which can sometimes appear daunting to small holders and farmers who may be lesser familiar to the system.
Another win for smaller abattoirs includes more readily available and personal advice, which in my opinion makes for a better quality service. Most importantly for welfare and the need for a smaller carbon footprint, a more distributed slaughterhouse network would cut journey times of both livestock and products.
Marisa Heath, political advisor and facilitator of the All-Party Group for Animal Welfare, spoke about some very compelling issues faced by smaller scale abattoirs, such as the ever increasing costs of disposing of bi-products which could in fact be a very valuable commodity, for instance hides for leather.
I found that the conference supported the narrative that the future of meat production isn’t necessarily in the consumer eating less meat – which wouldn’t be good for business – but more so eating meat which is sustainably farmed.
I feel this is a very current topic considering how meat is generating such negative press amongst the current generation.
The conference has been a really interesting event for me and it has given me a insight into outlooks on the future of agriculture across the globe.
Thank you very much to everyone who helped to organise the event. I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the sector.