Innovating ethical and profitable food security
- Published: Monday, 29 July 2013 10:07
- Written by Prof Quintin McKellar
Collaboration is the key to our future food supply.
The introduction of novel intensive production systems for livestock which enhance animal welfare, reduce the environmental foot print of animal production and deliver profit presents a real challenge for the food production industry. Food security in the UK is served by an open market to imports and a healthy home supply. Clearly maintaining home supply at a level which approaches net sufficiency in calories and protein must enhance food security, furthermore an agricultural base able to respond quickly to potential fluctuations in international supply is important.
This can only be achieved if home production is internationally competitive and if the physical and intellectual resources are available to enhance innovation and drive progress. Novel systems which benefit from efficiencies of scale have developed for pigs and poultry, and are now being developed for cattle with potential 10,000 head dairy herds. Industrial scale production is likely to bring additional profit but could also be developed to enhance welfare through appropriate construction, husbandry nutrition and observation. By-products may also be utilised to support environmental sustainability.
Such progress will depend on excellent research to provide evidence of the benefits to the animals and on access to highly competent and adaptable graduates. The task force which has been established by the National Centre for Universities and Business will determine how universities can work with agricultural and food production businesses to support a profitable and ethical industry, able to respond to fluctuations in market supply and demand.