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SAD DAY AND BAD DAY FOR FOOD SECURITY WHEN NOCTON KNOCKED ON THE HEAD Although there didn’t actually appear to be much of a upside for cake firms if it had gone ahead, I can’t help feeling downbeat at the news that the Nocton dairy project in Lincolnshire has been knocked on the head. The timing is particularly ironic, coming hot on the heels of the


World Economic Forum’s report ‘Realizing a New Vision for Agriculture: A roadmap for stakeholders’, in which the executive summary states: “The Time to Act Is Now: Committing to 20/20/20. The New Vision for Agriculture strives to harness the power of agriculture to drive food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity. Its aspirations are high, not least of which are to increase production by 20% while decreasing emissions by 20% and reducing the prevalence of rural poverty by 20% every decade.” It’s a good bet that Nocton would have ticked at least the first two of these boxes, but now we’ll never know. On the other hand, maybe I’m misguided. Perhaps we should be


rejoicing that a beacon unit the size of 29 typical customers, which probably wouldn’t use a single nut of dairy cake or even one teatcup of blend, is now not going to demonstrate to other milk producers how a cake firm is no longer a necessary aspect of their business model. And at least they won’t be buying any TMR machines, nor showing off to others how to make best use of them. Peevish? Of course, but clouds and silver linings and all that … yet still I’m downbeat.


EGGS TEACH DELICIOUS LESSON ABOUT UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS More cheerily, some genuine good news could be found in the Daily Hate Mail recently that eggs really are the new superfood (as mentioned from time to time before in this feature, dating back to November 2005).1 Even better news now, which is what justifies re-visiting the topic, is that it isn’t just our understanding of eggs’ nutritional properties that have improved, but that “eggs have become more nutritious over the past decade”, says the DHM. For what appears to be a clever trick of smoke and mirrors, the


British egg industry should be applauded for using genuinely new data from the renowned United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to portray eggs here as “healthier than ever, say experts” as the DHM sub-heading puts it. According to an American Egg Board press release distributed


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by the PR Newswire service, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has reviewed the nutrient composition of standard large eggs and found the cholesterol level to be 14% lower than when measured previously in 2002.2 Over the same period, the vitamin D component has risen by 64%. An explanation suggested by the AEB is that reduced cholesterol


in eggs could be related to better poultry nutrition. In the Daily Mail report, deputy chairman of the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) Andrew Joret endorses this, saying “we believe the reduction is due to changes in the feeds used in British plants since the nineties when the use of bone meal was banned.” In nit-picking frame of mind, I have not managed to find a direct link between the USDA findings and either British eggs or the bone meal hypothesis, hence the smoke and mirrors jibe. But as a PR practitioner for some of the time, I plead guilty to breaching the Holy Bible’s ‘let he without sin cast the first stone’ (St John, 8:7). Sorry. Giving credit where it’s due, the British egg industry is clearly


doing a lot of things right. In the last quarter of 2010, sales rose by 5% compared with 2009. In the whole of 2010, the egg market grew by 1.6% in volume and 2.6% in value, turning around “decades of year-on-year declines”, according to the BEIC.3 It says both value and volume growth are being driven by free range eggs, while caged egg sales have also stabilised. In such circumstances, we can forgive BEIC chief executive Mark Williams for allowing an oleaginous PR man (it wasn’t me, honest) to make up this nice example of corporate puff: “The egg industry is a shining example of a sector that has not accepted its lot, but has taken control of its future.” And so say all of us. Indeed, note to CAP reform negotiators: surely it is no coincidence that the egg sector has always had to stand on its own two feet and compete in a free market. Meanwhile, how many of us foresaw at the time of the meat and


bone meal (MBM) withdrawal from layer diets that such a potentially monumental gain might arise? The importance of this lesson right now, of course, is that high raw material prices put formulations in the spotlight and make ways of reducing costs particularly attractive. But beware the law of unintended, unforeseen or even unforeseeable consequences, which warns that “an intervention in a complex system always creates unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes. Akin to Murphy’s law, it is commonly used as a wry or humorous warning against the hubristic belief that humans can fully control the world around them.”4


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