In recent years, and even more so in recent months, it seems that everyone has become an expert in food and farming. Hollywood celebrities are telling us how we should eat to save the planet. Menus are changing throughout the world to meet the latest trends – whether driven by science or not. And leading centres of education and research – UK Universities - are banning practices and products based, in some cases, on popular opinion rather than proven facts.
Harper Adams University will not be banning beef from its campus menus. Our purpose, since the old college first opened in 1901, has been to further agricultural knowledge and to support the farming community. Rather than permitting knee-jerk reactions to broaden our appeal, we are putting our focus on what matters: developing a sustainable food chain while minimising the impact on our natural resources.
That’s why we are researching, for example, how changes to dairy cattle diets can reduce herd methane emissions. Why we are progressing urban farming techniques including aquaponics and vertical growing. Why teams from across the university are working on our Hands Free Farm – a bid to embrace technology to make farming both more efficient and less damaging to land and air.
It is why, for more than 10 years, our catering department has followed the ethos of food metres, not food miles. Meat from our pig, sheep and beef units, all part of a commercial working farm that doubles up as a learning facility, is served across our catering outlets. The use of on-site finishing and on-site butchers eliminate transport emissions*. We can guarantee animal welfare standards and food quality for every meat product, from sausage rolls to lamb chops.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t advocate choice when it comes to diet – just as we support diversity throughout our campus community. Our chefs have been developing an increasing range of vegetarian and vegan meals to ensure balance across the menu. Students who opt for full-board catering in their first year just have to chat with the kitchen team on arrival to ensure their needs are met. Our cafes offer milk alternatives. No one is left out!
At Harper Adams, our mission is to ensure our farming communities and the wider food supply chain – everything from machinery design to animal health, to food marketing and more – are fit to keep the rapidly expanding population fed. We believe variety and inclusion - of people and of ideas – are key to this mission. Food matters to everyone, after all
Those who want to make a difference need to support agricultural science, and support our farmers, without whom we wouldn’t have any choice about what to eat.