Tesco will pay dairy farmers to grow more sustainable feed for their livestock as part of its ambition to slash the environmental impact of a basket of goods.
The UK’s biggest supermarket is working in partnership with WWF on a scheme that will see 15 farmers given an 80% cost contribution towards trialling the use of herbal leys – a grass mix of plants, legumes and herbs which is used as feed for dairy cows.
Tesco said the seed mix would reduce the carbon footprint of dairy production since some of the legumes take in nitrogen so do not need as much artificial nitrogen fertiliser to grow. Over time, they also sequester more carbon in the soil than conventional ryegrasses.
Food businesses are increasingly looking at developing alternative animal feeds in light of growing evidence linking commodity animal feed crops like soya with overseas deforestation. A 2019 analysis of data supplied by seven major UK retailers and involving more than 200 producers, packers and manufacturers showed the UK’s soymeal footprint was 1.37m tonnes in 2018. Poultry was the biggest user, followed by pork, then eggs and milk. Of the 1.37m tonnes only 16% was deforestation-free.
Tesco said its seed mix can also increase on-farm biodiversity by attracting pollinators, and improve soil health and water quality.
It added that the nutritious food provided by the different plant species could even increase cow’s immunity from some diseases.
“UK farmers have an important role to play in bringing back nature to our landscape via sustainable farming practices,” said WWF sustainable agriculture specialist, Callum Weir. “Nature-based solutions such as herbal leys can play a role in tackling climate change and help support WWF and Tesco’s shared goal of halving the environmental impact of the average shopping basket.”
This week dairy giant Arla launched a new report revealing carbon footprint data from almost 2,000 dairy farms and the steps being taken to reduce farm emissions by 30% by 2030. It found cow feed (where and how it is produced) is responsible for 37% of Arla’s raw milk emissions