Knowledge for better food systems

Can Britain Feed Itself?

Written by Simon Fairlie (editor of The Land magazine, and head of Chapter 7, an organization providing lobbying and planning advice for smallholders, caravan and shack dwellers and similar low income rural people) and taking as its starting point a short book written by the Scottish ecologist Kenneth Mellanby in 1975 called Can Britain Feed Itself? (Mellanby’s answer was yes, if we eat less meat.) this article points out the way Mellanby worked it out ‘was simple, almost a back of the envelope job, but it provides a useful template for making similar calculati

Written by Simon Fairlie (editor of The Land magazine, and head of Chapter 7, an organization providing lobbying and planning advice for smallholders, caravan and shack dwellers and similar low income rural people) and taking as its starting point a short book written by the Scottish ecologist Kenneth Mellanby in 1975 called Can Britain Feed Itself? (Mellanby’s answer was yes, if we eat less meat.) this article points out the way Mellanby worked it out ‘was simple, almost a back of the envelope job, but it provides a useful template for making similar calculations.’

In this article, Fairlie adapts and and embellishes Mellanby’s basic diet to show how much land modern UK agriculture might require to produce the food we need under six different agricultural regimes. These are:

  • Chemical (ie. using artificial inputs) with livestock
  • Chemical vegan
  • Organic with livestock
  • Organic vegan
  • Livestock permaculture (see here for a definition).
  • Vegan permaculture

Some of the scenarios outlined in the article are pretty radical (indeed the notion of self sufficiency in itself is radical in the current context). The results should not be seen as anything other than a rough guide, and a useful framework for thinking about such matters.’ It does conclude that a self sufficient diet under the livestock permaculture scenario containing livestock products is possible and that the UK can also meet its need for fibre and (wood) fuel too.

The article does of course raise the fundamental question of whether self sufficiency is something to strive for – see here for a Defra report which argues that self sufficiency at the UK level is not not in fact necessary or desirable from a food security (including environmental) perspective; rather we should be aiming for a more Europe wide sufficiency. See here for more information.

File attachments

 

Add comment

Member input

Plain text

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.