Thursday, 28 November 2013

I’m a celebrity – get me some beef and lamb!

The focus of attention for a lot of people at the moment has switched to Australia. For some, it’s the cricket. For others, it’s crickets, or at least some other insect finding its way onto a jungle dining table for a celebrity to devour.

A little closer to home however, insects are finding their way onto French restaurant menus with the mouth-watering gastronomic proposition of palm weevils, water scorpion and grasshopper enticing diners in Montmartre.

Of course, there’s nothing new in people eating insects in many parts of the world, and the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population is well documented. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has reported the demand for animal protein is set to double by 2050 and listed nearly 2,000 insects that could provide a more cost-effective source of protein.

But are we quite ready to ditch our appetite for quality beef and lamb cuts to take up insect eating en masse just yet, or indeed at all? Novelty, niche or a genuine viable long-term source of protein to challenge beef and lamb? Time will tell.

For now, though, lean beef and lamb are fantastic, versatile ingredients that can play an important role in a healthy and balanced diet for consumers, with lean red meat making a significant contribution to health and wellbeing throughout life. And then, of course, there’s the matter of eating quality, the ‘eating experience’ of tucking in to quality standard beef and lamb, using some of the innovative recipes from the www.simplybeefandlamb.co.uk website, for example.

And as for the environmental credentials concerning production? We’ve said it before but the UK is one of the most efficient places in the world at producing beef and lamb due to its geography and climate, with less reliance on additional feeds. On-farm GHG emissions have been reduced through improved efficiency by 17.9 per cent for beef in the 10 years between 2000 and 2010, and 9.3 per cent for sheep over the same period. This does not mean though that we should not continue to improve our performance.

So, for now, we’d like to think that both the quality of livestock produced here, coupled with our industry’s commitment to efficient and sustainable production can keep beef and lamb on the plates of consumers for the foreseeable future, while leaving the insects to starring TV roles. After all, as an eating experience, when it comes to beef (or lamb) versus bugs, there really can be no contest.