Posted: 07/01/2019

Farming ‘key influencer’ joins RBST in fight to save old livestock breeds

Oxford Sandy & Black pigs are rated “at risk” on the current RBST watchlist

Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST), the organisation that champions British native livestock like the Berkshire pig and Dairy Shorthorn cattle, has named Christopher Price as its new chief executive officer.

Formerly policy director at the Country Landowners’ Association, Price will join RBST in February. It follows the departure of Tom Beeston last summer after four years in the post.

Chair of trustees Gail Sprake said: “RBST was founded to preserve and promote our national breeds of livestock for agriculture. To achieve this, we must further develop the use of these breeds in UK farming.”

With Price named by Farmers’ Weekly among the 20 key influencers in farming last year, RBST hopes he will be “instrumental in ensuring the UK’s native breeds thrive and contribute to farming and the environment.”

Despite the apparent interest among gastro pub chefs and charcutiers in breeds like the Tamworth and Gloucestershire Old Spots, all 11 of Britain’s native pig breeds are considered to be at risk, with fewer than 500 breeding females each. Four breeds, including British Lops and Middle Whites, are rated as ‘endangered’, with between 100 and 200 breeding sows.

Around half of our 60-plus native sheep breeds are at risk, as are around 100 native poultry breeds, squeezed out by more economical commercial varieties.

A third of our traditional cattle breeds are also at risk, despite the importance of their genetics to today’s commercial beef animals.

The RBST says the EU Common Agricultural Policy has not been kind to native breeds, but believes the Agriculture Bill currently going through Parliament could change that.

A co-sponsor of FFD’s ongoing Sell More Charcuterie campaign, the RBST views native breeds as both symbols of the UK’s national heritage and a “neglected national resource” in developing sustainable food for both UK and export markets.

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