Adam Henson: Waste not, want not

Every year we put the equivalent of 300 million beefburgers, worth £260 million, in the bin

Every year we put the equivalent of 300 million beefburgers, worth £260 million, in the bin - Credit: Archant

We are throwing away ridiculous amounts of food and it’s devasting for those who have worked so hard to produce it

Like most Cotswold farmers, I’m passionate about food and I’ve always considered British agriculture to be the provider for the nation’s dinner tables. Our corner of the country is renowned for delicious fruit and vegetables, first-class meat, award-winning cheese and an almost endless number of great bakeries, butchers, breweries and delis all offering mouth-watering fayre.

But it’s not the taste or quality of our great Gloucestershire produce that’s been on my mind recently, but the amount of food we waste. We tend to consider roast beef to be the national dish and over the generations it’s become a part of the Sunday lunchtime tradition. So it’s alarming to discover that British households are throwing away huge amounts of it. Every year we put 34,000 tonnes of beef products, worth £260 million, in the bin. That’s the equivalent of 300 million beef burgers. Over the years I’ve met so many dedicated herdsmen and women on my travels around the UK filming for Countryfile, and from my own experience on the farm at Guiting Power I know how much time, effort and care goes in to raising livestock. Any self-respecting beef farmer would be devastated to think that the meat they reared so lovingly just ended up in the garbage.

It was no surprise then, that my eye was caught by the ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ campaign. It’s designed to get us all to make the most of the meat we buy. There are several reasons people throw away so much beef and beef products; we buy too much, let it go past its use-by-date and leave it uncovered or in an open packet. But there are a few small steps and shortcuts we can take at home to save all that waste.

Writing a meal plan for the week ahead can help. So can taking a few moments to think about how and where we store food, having a decent look at the date label and serving the right portion size. But cooking with leftovers is probably the best way to cut waste. It’s something our parents’ generation didn’t think twice about in the post-war years when memories of rationing were still fresh in their minds. But the idea of making something tasty and nutritious out of yesterday’s leftovers is something that’s been lost along the way. Cold meat makes delicious sandwiches or a platter and beef goes brilliantly in curry, cottage pie, stir fry and soup.

Of course it would be a very optimistic person indeed who predicted that we could wipe out all food waste in the future. But new green technology in Gloucestershire is certainly giving us the chance to make good use of what we do throw away. It wasn’t too long ago that I was asked to open an impressive £9 million facility at Bishop’s Cleeve near Cheltenham which is all about turning what we don’t want into renewable energy. It’s an anaerobic digestor which takes waste food and coverts it in to biogas. It’s a greener and cheaper alternative to sending the waste to landfill sites or a composting plant. While the good news for Cotswold farmers and landowners is that they can benefit directly from the process. The end result is a thick liquid which looks a bit like black gravy. This is a brilliant organic fertiliser which is packed full of nutrients and can be spread on the land to give growing crops a real boost. While the farmer can sit back feeling satisfied that they have saved energy, cut their use of fossil fuels and reduced their carbon footprint.

Agriculture at its simplest is about providing food, while the modern industry is committed to the environment as well as the relationship between the farmer and the natural world. So you can see how this new green energy technology brings farming full circle.

Follow Adam on Twitter! @AdamHenson

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