Sustainable meat production – the potential of European genetics

Sustainable meat production – the potential of European genetics

The European Union as a region is famed for its wealth of livestock varieties, as well as for its concern for the natural environment in livestock production. The issue of European sustainable agriculture poses challenges which require change and improvement in the methods used in animal husbandry, and the use of new production technologies[1]. European producers are aware that agriculture is not solely the production of food; it also plays environmental, scenic, and social roles. This fact has been enshrined in the common EU agricultural policy from the outset[2].

One example of the pro-environmental policies of the EU is the Life Beef Carbon initiative, which aims to develop a set of best environmental practices in beef production[3]. Many European cattle breeds are suitable for the application of these practices. Highlander and Black Angus are two British cattle breeds which are perfect for the application of extensive farming. This type of husbandry has a positive impact on green spaces; the grazing cattle not only trample down the low-growing pasture flora creating a local microhabitat for many plants and insects, but they also effectively fertilise the soil, ensuring soil fertility and trapping carbon dioxide in humus[4]. Sustainable meat production in Europe is a goal which can be achieved by optimizing the raw materials used in the production process, e.g. by increasing the share of legumes in silage, by substituting rapeseed meal for soy meal in feeds, or by using feed additives to increase their digestibility. This type of husbandry is already being applied to many highly productive European beef cattle breeds such as the Belgian Blue or the French Limousine, Charolaise and Blonde d’Aquitaine[5].

Sustainable meat production also applies to pork – some examples include the raising systems of the Spanish Cerdo Ibérico and the Hungarian Mangalica breeds[6]. The Cerdo Ibérico breed is locally raised and is the basis for the production of the world-famous Jamón Serrano aged hams. Pigs of this breed are raised in a sustainable production system; the animals are free range and feed on acorns[7] and oak leaves, which has a positive impact on their health and ultimately on the flavor of the meat.

Regardless of whether European meat is produced in extensive or intensive systems, the animals are raised with substantial concern for their welfare and with respect for the natural environment. These values are a permanent part of EU agricultural policy[8].

In the spring of 2020, the organizers of the “Meat with European Quality” campaign invite American and Canadian journalists and opinion makers from the food industry for another study tour of Poland. This will be an opportunity to get a first-hand look at the high standards of pork and beef meat production and processing. If you’re interested, don’t hesitate to contact us at

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