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NBA Criticises Influential Scientists Misunderstanding

05 July 2011

UK - The National Beef Association (NBA) is alarmed at the lack of appreciation for the positive attributes beef production in the UK offers and is concerned that academics and scientific advisors show a bias against cattle production without having a full understanding of the sector and all it can offer.

It is clear there is a lack of knowledge, and also fundamental misunderstanding, of beef cattle industry issues, by academics, and other specialists, who are advising the UK government on food security, climate change, and other important issues, says the NBA.

This includes top scientific advisors who are still quoting greenhouse gas emission figures that have since been amended by scientists and academics alike after discovering fundamental mistakes in their calculations.

For example, last week, Professor Sir John Beddington, the government’s chief scientist, told a group assembled by government to discuss future UK and world food supply problems that it took 11,000 litres of water to produce a single beef burger. This may be the case globally, but looking at it in a UK perspective – which should be a priority for our Government to highlight – it takes just 67 litres of piped water to produce 1kg of beef, as demonstrated in Testing the Water, EBLEX’s second environmental roadmap.

“It is alarming that a person of Sir John’s stature could repeat information that can only have been compiled by an individual, or group, determined to put beef production under the worst possible light but it is even more disturbing that this misinformation was not challenged by any of the scientists present and accepted, as delivered, instead,” said NBA director, Kim Haywood.

“The Association is certain that beef production in the UK can contribute positively to future food security as well as deliver a number of important environmental, ecological, and public health benefits. To do this effectively though, we need the leading advisors to ensure they are up to date with their information and are aware of the positive story that is there to tell, rather than simply repeating outdated figures that bear little resemblance to the position in this country.

“This undermines the integrity of beef production because the Association has seen first hand that it is accepted, without challenge, by the great majority of academics and scientists that advise our government.”

“The flawed water usage figure, which has now been given even more illegitimate authority by Sir John, must have included every drop of water, whether irrigated or not, used to produce the beef burger’s bun and the salad ingredients as well.”

“Real UK beef sector water usage figures, compiled by the University of Cranfield, differentiate between green water or rainfall, which is used by grass, or cattle, where it falls and before it is lost to the river system, and blue water which is abstracted and comes out of a tap.”

“The blue water figure, which is the one Sir John and others should be focusing on, is just 67 litres per kilogramme of beef raised under UK production standards. In water usage terms this puts beef from the UK in a front line position, which contrasts with statements made by prominent public advisers. The NBA will be working even harder in its struggle to change these misconceptions.”

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