UCD Students debate the impact of farming on the planet at inaugural agri-food debate
11th Mar 2016
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Over 200 students and representatives of the Irish agri-food industry took to the UCD Garret Fitzgerald Debating Chamber on 10th March in the first annual Great Agri-Food Debate to consider the motion: “Ruminant Livestock Farming will Help Save the Planet.”
The debate saw students from UCD’s School of Agriculture and Food Science vigorously debate issues such as the long-term importance of agri-food production to the Irish economy; livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions; the relative efficiencies of the Irish production system, and what constitutes sustainable levels of meat consumption worldwide into the future.
Moderator for the night was Justin McCarthy, Editor of the Irish Farmers Journal and the judging panel was made up of Niall Browne, CEO, Dawn Meats; Adrian Crean, Managing Director, McDonald’s Ireland and Aidan Cotter, CEO Bord Bia. Dawn Meats and McDonald’s Ireland co-sponsored the event in recognition of the importance of sustainable sourcing and sustainable farming.
Commenting Niall Browne, CEO said; “The impact of our industry on the environment is something we’ve long been conscious of and we’ve taken a lot of steps to mitigate this impact over the last 10 years. The Irish grass-based system is one of the most carbon efficient in the world from an environmental perspective. Therefore we need to be pragmatic about the role that Ireland plays in relation to global food security and be unafraid of broadening the discussion by showcasing the natural advantages of Irish beef production.
The debate this evening gave us an opportunity to consider different sides of this contentious issue, and importantly, to provide a forum for the views and vision of the next generation of agri-food leaders. Our activities today will shape the industry that they inherit, and it is important that they are active stakeholders from the very beginning.”
Commenting Adrian Crean, MD McDonald’s Ireland said; “McDonald’s aims to begin purchasing verified sustainable beef by 2016 and the company has been working towards this ambitious goal for over ten years through the McDonald’s Agricultural Assistance programme, Flagship Farms and a range of complimentary initiatives taking place on a country level.
Not only is McDonald’s a proud supporter of Irish agriculture, purchasing 40,000 tonnes annually, but we’re also doing our bit to support sustainable farm practices. Just last month, McDonald’s UK released details of one of the largest ever independent carbon studies which was based on more than 1,300 assessments on UK and Irish beef farms. It identified specific ways that we can help farmers to significantly reduce their carbon footprint while also identifying cost savings – a win-win for both the farmer and the environment. Investment in research like this will have a very positive impact on future decisions in the agri-food space.”
Commenting Aidan Cotter, CEO, Bord Bia said; The agri-food industry is hugely important to the Irish economy, and accounts for almost one in ten jobs. Ireland is the largest net exporter of beef in the Northern Hemisphere with over 90% of beef output exported, comprising over half a million tonnes of beef in 2015 with a value of almost €2.3bn.