Setting the record straight – NFU addresses sustainability myths

First published: 21 November 2022

An image of sheep on a hill

A team of representatives from the NFU attended the annual conference of the AoC (Association of Colleges) to address some of the misconceptions surrounding sustainability in livestock farming.

Landex – the organisation which supports land-based colleges in the UK – was invited to host a stand at the conference, which was run by the NFU, and encourage discussions with attendees and organisers about what sustainable food looks like in the UK.

A change of menu

The AoC had originally taken the decision to provide a vegetarian and vegan menu for its two-day, flagship event, in order to reduce its carbon footprint.

Landex raised concerns with conference organisers, highlighting how the issue is more complex than this, which prompted the AoC to introduce an option of locally sourced chicken for the conference dinner and to invite the group to continue the conversation on stand at the annual conference.

The NFU staffed the stand on behalf of Landex, and led discussions around the sustainability and efficiency of British meat, landscape management, procurement, supply chain and lifecycle analyses.

“It was a great opportunity to get NFU people in front of a new audience to talk around issues that are more complicated than people first appreciate,” explained NFU chief livestock adviser, John Royle.

“Organisers of events like this can think they are making the best decision to meet their sustainability goals, but the fact is the full picture is far more complicated. We were there to have the conversation about healthy, efficiently and compassionately reared British meat, which maintains our iconic landscape and helps maintain healthy soils.”

Working in partnership

The NFU team arrived at the conference, ready to dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding meat and dairy production, but the majority of visitors to the stand were in support of British farming with a desire to work in partnership. 

Visitors who declared their support for the industry ranged from those working at the land-based further and higher education institutions, to those working in cities who appreciate the work of farmers, and those working to help develop a skills base which will bring improvements in the future. 

Throughout talks there was an emphasis placed on the industry’s aim to become carbon neutral by 2040 and the importance of using UK figures rather than global figures when talking about the carbon footprint of agriculture, particularly livestock production. 

Supporting the farmers of the future

“Organisers of events like this can think they are making the best decision to meet their sustainability goals, but the fact is the full picture is far more complicated. We were there to have the conversation about healthy, efficiently and compassionately reared British meat, which maintains our iconic landscape and helps maintain healthy soils.”

NFU chief livestock adviser, John Royle

The conference also provided the opportunity to engage with colleges offering qualifications in land-based studies like agriculture as well as organisations leading the way on developing new courses.

Association of Colleges conference

NFU chief livestock adviser John Royle and CEO of Landex Alex Payne tackling common misconceptions on stand at the AoC annual conference.

“It was a great opportunity to discuss the skills needed within agriculture in the future, but also the gaps in areas which will support and enable the industry to become carbon neutral. We urgently need people working in the sustainable energy sectors who can give the practical support to farmers who are working to make their businesses carbon neutral,” John concluded. 


Read more on how the NFU is championing sustainability within farming:

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