Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Riverford Organic Slaughter Procedure

Riverford Organic Slaughter Procedure

Below is Accurate of November 2018, it is a copy of an email received from Riverford:

Here are the details of the slaughtering procedure. I have also added in a little extra to how the animals are kept. If you did want to find out anymore you are more than welcome to call us here at the Farm (Riverford Organic). Or on our (Riverford Organic) website at the top left hand side there is a tab called 'about' click on that one and scroll down there is another box on the right hand side click on 'faqs' this will open up all the information about why we do things the way we do, packaging, prices vs supermarket prices, etc. 

There is a lot of information backed up with scientific facts to support our ethos here are Riverford.
All the beef and lamb used at the butchery is bought directly from members of our producer group, who are all within 40 miles of the abattoir. The group is very selective and we only use farmers we have a long trusting business relationship with (some also supply veg into Wash). All producers and their farms have been visited and approved by the butchery general manager. Regular visits are also carried out during the year.

We (Riverford Organic) use a small family run abbattoire in Devon that is 10 minutes’ drive from our butchery. Unlike most abattoirs, they only slaughter three days out of seven so it is not done on a mass scale (low throughput). It is fully E.C. licensed and Soil Association approved, has a full time F.S.A. meat inspector and veterinary surgeon on site during slaughter.

The method used is called stun & stuck- which means that the animal is “stunned” to render them unconscious and then “stuck” which means their throat is cut. This process is only carried out by fully licensed and trained slaughter persons under the supervision of the F.S.A. staff.

Lambs are held in a holding pen, in groups of 3 – 4 as this reduces stress, where they are “stunned” on either side of the head with a specially designed electrical stunner. The voltage and “stun” time is meticulously monitored to ensure the animal is fully unconscious before “sticking”. They then have their throats cut (“sticking”) and allowed to bleed before being further processed.

Cattle are held, separately, in a specially designed “stun box” and shot with a “captive” bolt rather than by electrical stunner because they are so much larger the electric method would not give an effective “stun”. The animal is then “stuck” by having its throat cut and allowed to bleed before further processing.

Chickens are processed at another “low throughput” facility in Devon. This facility is also fully E.C. licensed and Soil Association approved to process poultry and again there is a F.S.A. veterinary surgeon on site during slaughter.

The chickens are hung on a moving line and get dipped into an electric bath & “stunned” before coming out the other end where a fully licensed slaughter person is waiting to ensure they are fully stunned before cutting their throats (“sticking”). They are allowed to bleed before further processing.
I can assure you that all our animals are killed in the most humane way possible; none are killed using “ritual” slaughter methods, and they do not suffer any unnecessary stress or pain. The welfare of the animal is very important to us and our chosen processors.

All premises are monitored and supervised by F.S.A. officials who are completely independent. We also visit and audit the premises on a regular basis to ensure every process meets our own high standards. The butchery won the R.S.P.C.A. award for good business in 2011.


All of our lambs come from farms local to the butchery and they live outdoors all year round as this is the most natural way for the animals to live. They will graze on grass and natural herbage in the spring and summer and are given hay/silage in the winter & autumn. Farmers may also supplement the sheep’s diet with organic sheep nuts if there is insufficient grass to graze.

Farmers will bring the ewes inside to lamb where there will be straw bedding and penned off areas. These areas are large enough for the ewes to be comfortable but small enough to ensure the safety of the lamb. As soon as the farmer feels that the lamb is safe and healthy it will be turned out to pasture with its mother, this could be anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days.

The sheep are free to graze naturally which means that they are able to grow at their own rate. This means that the meat produced is as natural as possible, giving it a wonderful flavour and the right balance of muscle and fat.


Our (Riverford Organic) beef herds live outdoors for the majority of their lives and all are traditional beef breeds. The Soil Association welfare regulations dictate that they must be brought inside for a period during the winter time. This is to allow the pastures to recover during the wetter months of the year so that the grass will be lush ready for the animals to be let out in early spring.
When the cattle are brought inside they are kept in large barns with good ventilation. They all have large bays in the barns with plenty of straw bedding that is regularly maintained. During this period they are fed a diet of silage with occasional cereal supplements.
As with other organic livestock, the beef herds are fed and kept as naturally as possible. This ensures that the meat has the right balance of muscle and fat, and also means that the need for vaccinations is eradicated.


Our (Riverford Organic) pork is now supplied by Helen Browning Organics. http://helenbrowningsorganic.co.uk The pigs are British saddlebacks who live outdoors all year round. They are in fields which have natural shelter as well as “pig arks”. These arks are open so the animals can exercise their natural behaviour patterns without restraint, avoid sunburn on the hotter days and keep warm in the winter time. The pigs are fed organic pig meal.
The pigs will be taken inside a few days before they are taken to the abattoir. They are brought inside so that the farmers can make sure they are clean, healthy and up to weight. The barns have a good ventilation system which keeps the pigs healthy and cool. They have the run of a large barn which is bedded with straw. Pigs are sociable animals and enjoy being able to be together in the barns. All pigs are allowed to grow at their own rate. They are not given any supplements or fattening aids.


All our (Riverford Organic) chickens are organic. The chickens have huts for shelter which are opened each dawn so the chickens can go in and out freely and easily during daylight hours. They are shut in their huts at dusk to have protection from predators during the night.
The chickens are fed organic chicken feed inside the huts but when they are outside they scratch and forage in the grass for worms etc. and lead a totally natural existence. Outside we also provide them with shelters which they can use for protection from predators and/or inclement weather.
Our farmers keep small flocks of chickens as opposed to larger ones. This is so that the chickens have plenty of space inside the huts and outside. Inside the huts the chickens have perches and hay bales and feed toys (dried corn to peck at e.t.c.).

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Which type of Grocery Bag is the most Environmentally Friendly?

Which type of Grocery Bag (shopping bag) is the most Environmentally Friendly? 

This is not a simple choice. Each of the below grocery or shopping bag options has its own problems. The choice will boil down to whether you want to prevent global warming or prevent plastic pollution. Plastic pollution despite being a very visual problem, is a small problem compared to global warming. 

Conclusion: The most important factor with a shopping bag / grocery bag is that is is reusable. You should look for a bag that will last a long time, and is easy to make. This is unlikely to be a paper bag, they do not last very long. There is no problem with plastic bag provided it is re-used multiple times, and recycled at the end of use.

Plastic or paper? 

Paper is better right? No not really. A life cycle comparison conducted by NASA (you know rocket scientists), have shown that  really there is little to pick between paper or plastic in terms of environmental credibility. Below image courtesy of NASA. 

Bag for Life?

A very simple "bag for life" option for a super market may well be a very good option, a 20c / 10p heavy duty plastic carrier bags will last for perhaps 100 uses and is very easy to make and recycle. 

But even with reusable bag you have to be careful with you choice.  Some heavily made reusable bags such as cotton totes bags have to be used 1000's of times before they are better than a normal plastic grocery bag. Why is this? . . .

It is because normal plastic grocery or shopping bag is very quick and easy to make. A complicated fancy looking bag for life is complicated to make, you need to grow cotton, wash the cotton, feed the workers, spin the cotton, weave the cloth, stitch the bag together, transport the bags in trucks. Each of these stages produces CO2 and a complicated bag will produce a lot more CO2 than a simple one. 

The best option might be to reuse a bog standard carrier bag. Just make sure you dispose of it properly. 


A compostable plastic carrier bag is an excellent choice if you actually intend to compost it at home in you well managed compost heap. But is is not a good choice if it ends up in the normal rubbish bin, or mixed with normal bags for recycling. 

No Bag

Perhaps the best option is no bag at all. But this only works for just a few items. But if you are wearing a coat, why not put the stuff in your pockets. 

Card Board Box

Many stores provide a used cardboard box, in which to put groceries. Provided this is recycled or composted after use, this might also be a good option.

In Depth 

The below table comes from a report published by the Environment Agency of UK. It shows the number of times you have to reuse a carrier bag, for it to become comparable with a certain alternative.

A conventional HDPE bag is very easy to make, and creates little environmental impact. Re-use for best option. A paper bag would have to be used 3 times to be comparable. But I doubt you would be able to re-use a paer bag 3 times. An LDPE bag need only be used 4 times to be comparable, it is entirely feasible that an LDPE bag could be reused 4 times, and as such this is the best option.

Below is a table showing the types of bag, so as to avoid confusion regarding types.

Based on the CO2 footprint of manufacture the below graph is derived. This is just one part of the life cycle analysis that was carried out.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Why can't single-use plastic items be recycled?

Why can't single-use plastic items be recycled?

Some single use plastic items can be recycled, but not all of them. It depends on the type of plastic, and whether facilities exist to recycle it the plastic if it is indeed a variety which can be recycled.

Types of Single Use Plastics

There are 6 types of plastic, all of them can be recycled but not all are. There is a 7th type of plastic but it is really a group of plastics, which nobody can be bothered to name individually.

From the above list types 1 and 2 are likely the most commonly recycled. And as such you should always try to use single use plastics that are PET or HDPE, as generally there are option for getting these recycled.

Facilities to Recycle Single Use Plastics

In the UK PET and HDPE are recycled by 92% of councils. So if for example you have just finished some bottled water (PET), take the bottle home and put it in your recycling bin, and it will get recycled. 

As for nearly all other packaging it can be taken back to the shop where you bought it. When shopping at Tesco for example, if you find that your microwave meal tray is not recyclable, then take it back to the store . . . if everybody did this the problem would disappear over night. 

Keep it Simple

As a final point do not buy single use plastic packaging that is "stuck together" with multiple types of other material. The below image shows some shampoo, image is from 666 Alert.

In this packaging there is at least 2 type of material that are not needed. The box, and the film "window" both will require seperation, before you even get the the bottles in side, which you can not even see to check they are recyclable!

Waste Recycling Permits London

A Political Response to Climate Change

A Political Response to Climate Change

Below set out is a political response to climate change. Often climate change is sold by politicians as a problem, when really it is an opportunity. Change can bring around opportunity. However, at present politicians are using a sticking plaster approach; we are placing restrictions on a system that was developed in era of carbon intensive growth, and the below considerations should be made, listed in order of importance.

1 – Swap GDP for Citizen Satisfaction Metric

The first requirement is to change the way a nation’s success is measured. At present this is represented by % GDP over a typical year. This metric would be adequate is we lived in a limitless environment, where resources and space will never run out, but we do not. We live on a spec of rock, drifting in an indifferent vacuum. We can rely on a metric that relies on constant growth.
The metric that needs to be considered in any political response to climate change is "satisfaction" of the populace. This after all is the metric used by most other entities to gauge there performance. It will also reduce our reliance on growth as a form of self-validation.
This switch from a growth based metric, to a condition based metric will free up politicians to make hundreds of choices that would damage the current growth based system:

2 - Reduce Birth Rates 

 Humans are the root cause of accelerated climate change. Yet world population is growing rapidly. This is policy will be the most unpleasant and difficult policy to implement. A birth control policy was implemented in China for many years, however China is not a democracy and this decision could be made without public consent. How can for example a two child policy be presented as acceptable?
It is very likely that a family with more then 2 children will be experienced to greater stresses, whether this be in terms of time allocation of financial. This need to be researched. Research should look in to negative outcomes arising from higher number of children:
•    Likelihood of Parental
•    DivorceLikelihood of Bankruptcy
•    Likelihood of Mental Illness
There have been great strides made in stopping people from smoking by advertising its negative effects. The same principals should be adopted with an aim to forming a policy for reduced birth rates.
After data has been collected for 2 years on the above “carrot” approach a “stick” approach may be warranted where financial penalties are introduced. This will need careful research.

3 – Worker Owned Entities

There will be vast numbers of capital enterprises that will need to be undertaken in order to action required polices. The current system whereby all projects are carefully gauged on the basis of financial risk, will not be appropriate.
Works will be undertaken by worker owned cooperatives. Individuals with experience of project management should be appointed as managing members of such entities and they will undertake all normal resource management based on the current. A small group of founding individuals will face an interview and aptitude process in order to bid for government funding. Works will be undertaken between these founding individuals and the government on the basis of a standard contract template, where by pay grades are set out in advance, and all employees and directors of companies receive an equal performance based bonus.
Funding will be made available via quantitative easing. Negative impacts currently associated with this technique will be lessened owing to new metrics as explained in section 1.
These working groups could be allocated to any number of projects ranging from delivery of energy infrastructure to support roles for regulatory enforcers, to deal with additional burdens.

4 – 100% Renewables over 10 Year Period

It is imperative that we move quickly to establish a 100% renewable energy infrastructure. With full policy support this could be implemented in less than 10 years. This is massive undertaking and the opportunities for employment are also massive. Countries should move to undertake manufacture of PV panels and Turbines (Sea or Wind) domestically so as to provide employment from these new industries. Regulatory hurdles which may prevent renewables projects from coming to fruition, should be lessened but not removed as these serve as a valuable scoping tool.
Renewable Energy projects should be chosen on the basis of the carbon pay back. Shortest should proceed first, or a pass mark could be introduced such as “any project under 10 year carbon payback time”.

5 – Adequate Energy Storage over 10 Years

Owing to fluctuations in output from solar and wind renewables. It will be required that energy storage infrastructure is increased.

6 – CO2 Removal  

With a 100% renewable energy infrastructure, there will be a myriad of opportunity for geo engineering. For example at present we would not consider capturing carbon from the atmosphere using mechanical means as it would not result in a carbon saving, but with 100% renewables the carbon intensity of this operation would be zero, and as such a feasible solution. This could provide long term employment.

7 – Transport

Whilst there are many options for road based transport in terms of battery powering. The largest hurdle to overcome is air travel. It may not be possible to power an aeroplane with anything other than liquid fuels. However, pending the delivery of 100% renewable, it should be possible to manufacture hydrogen fuels, which have a negligible carbon footprint.

Environmental Policy Consultants London

Monday, 19 November 2018

Bad Effects of Festivals on the Environment

Bad Effects of Festivals on the Environment - Introduction

There are many festivals each year, most encourage consumption of stuff we don't need. Buying extra things, toys, beer, suitcase. . .that we can do without.

Bad Effects of Festivals on the Environment - Guy Fawkes Night

An interesting fact is that on November the 5th in the UK (Fireworks & Bonfires) it takes around 1 minute to release the amount of air borne pollutants you would get coming out of an modern large scale incinerator during a whole year.

Bad Effects of Festivals on the Environment - Christmas

Any festival that involves dressing up or buying toys (halloween or christmas) has a massive impact on the environment. Additional meat eating, single use costumes, tacky (virtually) single use toys. Unwanted gifts, needlessly upgraded technology.

Bad Effects of Festivals on the Environment - What can you Do?

Just buy less stuff. If you have to buy try and stick to things that will actually get used. Overeating for example is part of christmas I suppose, but try to buy food that can be frozen so it does not go to waste if not eaten.

With regards to gifts try to buy low impact gifts, that will be used. The worst thing would be a large bulky plastic gift with no practical use. 

Flood Risk Assessments London

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Sewage Treatment Works Taunton

Sewage Treatment Works Taunton

A quick post to describe location of Taunton Sewage Treatment Works. Click on the link to open google maps.

The waste water treatment works for the county town of Taunton, lie to the east of the town, to the south of the Village of Ham. 

The STW (Sewage Treatment Works) discharges in to the River Tone.

Orange Circle Shows Location

Position Relative to Village of Ham

Environmental Consultants Exeter

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Why does organic milk have a higher carbon footprint?

Why does organic milk have a higher carbon footprint?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a carbon footprint as “the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).”

So why does organic milk have a higher carbon footprint?

Lower yields.

It takes 80% more land to produce one unit of milk than conventional production does. Whilst energy is saved by the avoidance of synthetic fertiliser applications, this is actually being offset by the significantly lower yields and greater mechanical field inputs. These low yields create a negative environmental knock-on effect because an organic dairy farm needs a larger area to produce less milk than a conventional farm.

Higher on-farm energy consumption.

The energy consumption per functional unit in the on-farm process is around 20% higher on an organic model than it is on a conventional one.
On-farm primary energy use in the organic system is 15.8% 5 higher than the conventional system, while organic milk required 33.9% 6 more fuel per thousand litres of milk.
Furthermore, the organic systems requires approximately a third more man hours than conventional systems. The longer man hours include machinery hours and therefore creating a greater consumption of fossil fuels, in the form of diesel and electricity, increasing organic milk’s carbon footprint.

Synthetic vs Organic Fertilizer.

The organic system can require the spreading of up to 20 tonnes/ha of manure, and the average conventional farm applies around 1100 kg/ha of synthetic fertiliser That is around 20 times the weight difference in transport and management every year. This figure is staggering when you consider the difference in power and machinery hours needed to load, transport and spread up to 20 t/ha of manure compared to a meagre 1.1 t/ha of synthetic fertiliser, having implications on fossil fuel consumption and the carbon footprint. Furthermore, in many cases when an organic farm has insufficient solid manure from its own cows it is actually forced to import organic manure from other organic farms.

Higher methane emissions.

Methane gas is twenty three times more potent than carbon dioxide. It is estimated that cows in the UK alone produce up to 500 litres, per cow, of methane every day, a figure so high that they account for 3% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Organic milk’s methane contribution is 18% higher than conventional milk. In the UK showed the figure to be 70% methane in the organic system, compared to 52% on the conventional system.
The reason for the higher production of Methane is that organic cows eat more roughage, this takes to longer to digest than the diet of an animal in an intensive system. Grass is rich in cellulose and other tough components; symbiotic bacteria living in her gut help break down this tough food. Unfortunately, these bacteria emit huge amount of methane while doing this job.  Since and organic cow needs more time to digest, she produces more methane than a conventional cow.

Supplementary Organic Cattle Feed.

A commercial dairy cow cannot exist solely on a grass fed diet. The additional protein requirements for organic dairy cows create a large carbon footprint in themselves, as the produce cannot be grown in temperate/cool climates. The standards set by the UK’s organic bodies forbid the use of GMO feeds which would lower the amount of carbon used.  Something that is often overlooked is that Soya meal, a key protein rich ingredient is sourced from farms in Asia, South America and the US. These imports are fuelling slash and burn techniques and further deforestation in areas of South America. This shatters the food mile argument from much further down the supply chain, before the manufacturing process of feeds begins and even before feed is synthesised into milk. Whilst Soya meal is not present in all cattle feeds, the environmental impact of long distance goods importation must not be underestimated.


Does the carbon footprint of organic milk production negate its environmental benefits?
Henry J.W. Robertson Oxford Brookes University

What's the environmental impact of milk?

Is Organic Milk Better for the Environment ? Not Really …

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