Sustainable meat production – a progressive approach of the European Union
The European Union is a world leader in sustainable livestock production and has long been distinguished by its commitment to environmental protection and animal welfare. The solutions implemented in the EU are often the inspiration for changes in other parts of the world.
Consumers are increasingly paying attention to aspects related to the environment and animal welfare. European meat producers are perfectly aware of this, adapting their technologies to modern market requirements.
Sustainable animal production carries out not only environmental but also social and financial objectives. This type of farming uses technological gains for resource optimization and cost reduction. This makes it possible to ensure food security with limited resources of natural raw materials.
Sustainable meat production in Europe is based on three main pillars: reducing environmental impact, maintaining high animal welfare and optimizing the resources used. A great example is the production of biogas from animal by-products. The Danish government already in 2009 created the so-called "Green Pact", which aims to use at least 50% of animal metabolites for energy purposes by 2020. Other EU countries are also very active in this field. Specialized energy production programs for dairy cattle are being developed in the Netherlands. In Germany, which accounts for a large part of the production of renewable energy from biogas in the EU, biogas plants for animal waste manage 12% of cattle manure and 16.5% of pig manure. Agricultural biogas plants have also translated into an increase in energy production from renewable sources – over 11.2 thousand new biogas plants were built in EU countries between 2009 and 2017. Some European producers even go a step further and plan to introduce meat production that will have no impact on the environment.
Environmental protection is not only renewable energy. The European Union has introduced restrictive requirements regarding the impact of animal production on the environment, such as the nitrates directive. This regulation obliges farmers to demonstrate how waste has been managed. It is forbidden to use natural fertilizers in winter, when the soil is frozen. This ensures that the fields are not nitrogen-fertilized and minimizes the loss of this component, which limits the eutrophication of water.
Restrictions related to the use of natural fertilizers necessitate adjusting the stocking density to the crop area. Livestock housing requirements give the animals much more freedom than in other regions of the world.
European countries are pioneers in the field of welfare – the first animal protection law was established in Ireland as early as 1635. The European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes from 1976 provides animals with five basic freedoms: freedom from hunger and thirst; from discomfort; from pain, injury, and disease; from fear and distress; and freedom to express normal behavior. Good conditions are an advantage not only for the animals but also for producers – animals in a high standard environment are healthier and grow faster with lower expenses for treatment and veterinary medicine.
Optimizing the resources used is another factor that distinguishes EU producers. The development of technology is driven by growing spending on research. As part of the funds on the development of food security and sustainable agriculture from the Horizon 2020 program, a significant part is allocated directly to the development of agricultural production. Research translates into economic results. In the production of pigs, the use of feed per unit of live weight gain in the EU is at a very good level while maintaining the ban on meat and bone meal and antibiotics in feed. High productivity is also achieved in smaller, family farms, despite the lack of the scale that huge industrial farms have.
Producers in the European Union give a great example of how to produce meat in a sustainable way. Ethical production meets the needs of consumers who pay more and more attention to production standards and environmental protection. Meat from the EU, produced with respect for animal rights and natural resources is an excellent choice for those who particularly value health, ethical business, and the natural environment.
All information on the campaign and current activities carried out within its framework are available on the website: www.meatfromeurope.eu and on the Youtube channel Meat with European Quality.