Defra Secretary Michael Gove has recognised the role livestock will play in future farming systems, becoming the first Minister to accept the link between sustainable food systems and healthy diets.
Speaking at the Future of UK Farming, which was organised by the Sustainable Food Trust, Mr Gove said that how food is produced is also about the health of the environment, which must be protected and enhanced. Otherwise, he said, “we hack at the roots of the tree of life”.
While he was careful not to pre-empt the conclusion of Defra’s consultation on the department’s future of UK agricultural policy, which ends on 8 May, Mr Gove said that there is growing public interest in where food comes from, how it is grown and what impact the particular methods of cultivation might be.
He added that people also want to know about the impact of diet on our health. As he pointed out, while communicable diseases were the major killers in times past, these days the principal cause of mortality are non-communicable, such as lung and heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
The Sustainable Food Trust has long argued that grazing animals and red meat are critically important to sustainable food production and healthy diets. Mr Gove agreed that improving the UK’s national diet is an important job for farmers.
He told delegates that a balanced diet, rich in fresh fruit and vegetable, beans, pulses and cereals, fresh dairy produce and protein sources, such as properly sourced meat and fish is critical to human health.