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It’s been another good year for Free Range Dairy Network; sales of Pasture Promise free range milk continue to grow and we have welcomed new farmers to the fold. But, milk (and meat) has taken a real bashing in 2019 and many farmers have been left wondering why they are being blamed for everything that’s wrong with the world.

Climate change really matters to people, animal welfare matters to people and the packaging that our food comes in matters too. But what about food – how much does food really matter?

I’m not talking about just healthy eating or the case for a vegan / plant-based diet here. I’m talking about simply having enough good quality, affordable food to eat. It seems to me that we have all come to feel so assured of a never ending, abundant supply of food that the basic need for food to sustain life is overlooked. So, I hope the Gobal Food Security Index (GFSI), produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit, might help to refocus our attention on that basic need for food.

The GFSI considers the core issues of affordability, availability, and quality across a set of 113 countries. It is constructed from 34 unique indicators, that measures these drivers of food security across both developing and developed countries. The study also looks beyond hunger, to the underlying factors affecting food insecurity and now includes an adjustment factor on natural resources and resilience. This short YouTube video explains what the GFSI sets out to achieve.

The UK is currently ranked 17th overall in the list and was one of only 14 countries to see its score drop in 2019. In number one spot is Singapore, followed by Ireland and the USA. Whilst the country making the biggest gain in 2019 was Kuwait.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), dysfunctional global food systems are fuelling soaring levels of malnutrition and causing a world health crisis. Dr Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the WHO, cites nutrition as the main cause of death and disease in the world.

Dr Branca believes that healthy food needs to be more accessible and more affordable. He says “One of the biggest barriers is availability of the right food, which is still dictated by the large producers. We need to find a way of engaging with the food industry to change the content of food products. In some countries, a desire to eat the right food cannot be met because of the choice of food available at the supermarket and its price.”

The 2018 GFSI index found that nearly all countries (91%) had a valid nutrition plan or strategy. For the updated 2019 index framework, the analysis explored whether there was a valid nutrition plan or strategy within the past five years that accounted for both children and adults. Under this stricter standard, only 80% of countries achieved the target. The UK was one of the 20% that did not. Differential plans are important because of the distinct nutritional needs of young people versus adults. For instance, short-term nutrient deficiencies in the young can have life-long cognitive and physical effects.

Returning to the theme of food security, the GFSI report shows that the UK scores well for affordability (83.6), availability (74.4) and quality and safety (80.9). But just how secure are our food supplies? Figures produced by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the UK is now only 60% self-sufficient in food, compared to a figure of 74%, 30 years ago.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has urged government ministers to put food and farming at the top of the political agenda. It calculated that the UK would run out of food on August 7th 2019, if imports stopped on January 1st, illustrating just how vulnerable our food supplies are.

If food really did run out by August 7th, imagine what meal we would be sitting down to on Christmas day? Instead of assuming that we will always be able to fly in food from across the world. That’s why we need to support the best type of farming, here on our own doorstep.

So, my hope for 2020 is that we will see more media coverage of the vital role farming plays in feeding our nation, rather than condemnation of cows and farmers. Halting climate change and reducing the amount of single use plastic in this world are important. But, if we don’t stop treating food production as some kind of ‘nice to have’ side issue, there is a real danger we will all get home from our protests one day to find the cupboards are bare.

We are doing our bit to try and make sure that great British milk, from free range cows, keeps flowing in 2020 and beyond. Please support us and ask your friends and family to take a look at our website over the Christmas period.




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