Local meat under threat

A warning has been issued that some farms in the south east of England are under "significant threat" because of the rising cost of animal feed.

Promotional body, A Taste of Sussex, said the 10% of UK farms that are found in the south east are feeling the effects of poor global harvests and the increase in demand for biofuels, which have pushed feed prices up and are forcing farmers to sell livestock at a loss.

"Centuries of farming have produced the Sussex landscape that we all know and love," said Hilary Knight, co-ordinator of A Taste of Sussex. "The contribution of agriculture to the local economy may have decreased over time but nevertheless, farmers still play a significant role in maintaining the security of our food supplies, to the countryside, the environment and the fabric of rural life."

There are 315 pig holdings and 1,557 sheep holdings in Sussex, managing a total of 40,542 pigs and 365,397 sheep respectively, according to the promotional body. The total number of beef cattle in Sussex is approximately 17,941. The South Downs are famous for both sheep and cattle breeds which are two of the oldest and purest English breeds. Many have been exported all over the world for breeding. If significant numbers of local livestock farmers are forced out of business, it would have a significant affect on local rural communities, warned A Taste of Sussex.

"We want to be confident about what we are eating," said Hilary Knight, who is asking consumers to check the provenance of meat before they buy. "Our local livestock farmers give us access to traceable, sustainably farmed meat that is low in food miles. The variety of cuts of meat, sausages, pies and pâtés that you can source at farmers' markets and in independent butchers is incredible. If these farmers go out of business, we loose not only our heritage and the guardians of our countryside but also considerably reduce our choice of products."