The "EcoLamb" project will assess the sustainability of diverse EU-28 and Turkish sheep production systems focusing on resilience to future ecological and social barriers and how the competitiveness of the sector can be strengthened. The objectives of the project are to identify, support and promote functional healthier lamb meat from low ecological footprint production systems, conforming to Europe’s Sustainable Animal Production mandate. As well as biodiversity conservation, EcoLamb’s holistic approach will aim to adhere to a higher set of animal welfare standards to further improve meat quality and safety and gain greater consumer acceptability and competitiveness. The project outcomes will improve efficiency, profitability, welfare standards and ecological soundness of the sector at the farm level whilst increasing societal acceptance and refining the delivery of ecosystem services. Competitiveness of the sheep sector will be enhanced by understanding how meat products can be better incorporated into the diets of consumers in the future.
To achieve these objectives EcoLamb will engage European and Turkish farmers and multi-disciplinary research teams to develop new animal welfare and sustainability assessments for the whole lamb meat supply chain. The consortium will review European, national and international projects with similar objectives and ascertain past shortcomings in order to avoid repetition of mis-assessments, and will establish wide-ranging networks to continue joint development of the European farmer capacity building. These will be used to understand the potential future barriers that limit the innovative capacity of the sector
The project aims to effectively address through collaborative interdisciplinary transnational partnerships the improvement of sustainable lamb production and healthier meat in Europe and Turkey.
WP 1 – Project management and coordination
WP 2 – Resource Efficient and Low Carbon Production of Lamb Meat
WP 3 – Evaluation of Production System Impact on Meat Quality (nutritional value, quality and safety)
WP 4 – Analysis of Socially Approved Lamb Meat Production
WP 5 – Branding and marketability
WP6– Dissemination – Multi-actor, transnational knowledge exchange, resource mobilization, policy recommendations and curriculum development
Expected impact, including European added value
The partner counties in the project make up approximately 50% of the total sheep population within Europe. The projects Dissemination work package (WP 6) is dedicated to interactively and continuously deliver output to key stakeholders in order to achieve impact. More than 20 case study sheep farms and their immediate communities through their direct involvement will be utilising EcoLamb’s outcomes immediately. The societal impacts on industry from the case study farm households will represent a significant benefit. A successful farm level exchange network that permeates the supply chain will increase the impact beyond these industry partners as EcoLamb deliverables become industry best practice. Additionally, a roadmap for policy makers will establish a benefit for EcoLamb beyond the project timeline, including impacts to other livestock species.
Through the project’s outputs EcoLamb will contribute to the following expected impacts of the work programme:
Increased efficiency and profitability of animal agriculture
By identifying and promoting examples of sustainable lamb production, EcoLamb will develop approaches to production and the supply chain that will address environmental and socio-economic issues whilst also improving the competitiveness of the whole sector. Additionally, management strategies incorporating resilience, adaptation and welfare traits will constitute population-level solutions that, when implemented at farm-level, will increase the efficiency of the enterprises. Such beneficial effects at farm-level will permeate to the entire sector, providing a cost-effective way to impact on the value chain.
Improved overall sustainability and innovative capacity of the livestock sector
Identifying suitable sustainability indicators for the sheep sector and using them in assessments is a key first step to assessing current levels to improve sustainability. Multi-criteria assessment at various levels of the supply chain will allow relationships between economic, environmental and social aspects to be uncovered as well identifying trade-offs, shift of burdens and areas of synergy. After these assessments, case studies that include innovative approaches on farms to reduce stress factors which would improve meat quality, reduce pharmaceutical use, improve traceability will provide enhanced competitiveness.
Preservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage.
Small ruminants are frequently associated with marginal areas where livestock production covers more aspects than merely economic returns. In these areas the abandonment of traditional activities is increasing with the consequent loss of traditional landscapes, biodiversity but also cultural heritage. Supporting livestock production activities with small ruminants, through the creation of added value products adapted to the different territories will also contribute to these other aspects. There is growing evidence on the negative cultural consequences of migrating from rural areas to urban centre but we lack strategies that include diversity of scenarios which can provide sustainable and integrated solutions. The importance of small ruminant production to the livelihoods of many of the world’s poorest people and the major significance to pasture areas with the provision of ecosystem services (carbon sequestration, water cycling, provision of wildlife habitats, etc.) imply that the sustainable use and development of livestock populations with SME's is truly a very viable option.
Preservation of livestock genetic diversity
By improving the role of local breeds, especially in marginal areas the project will contribute to preservation of livestock genetic diversity. This is very significant to confront the future challenges related to climate change by keeping a genetic reservoir of breeds well adapted to harsh and changing conditions. On the other hand, the use of local breeds better adapted, we can contribute to maintain landscapes and biodiversity. Given the major roles of small-scale livestock keepers and pastoralists in maintaining animal genetic diversity, factors that undermine the sustainability of smallholder and pastoralist production systems constitute significant threats to that diversity. These threats may include both market-related factors (e.g. competition from large-scale producers or exclusion from markets because of difficulties in meeting the specific requirements of retailers and consumers) and problems related to the degradation of (or lack of access to) natural resources. EcoLamb project addresses these issues making the potential contribution to Europe and Turkey's sustainable livestock production quite significant.
Increased societal acceptance
Lamb production with low ecological footprint and improved resource utilisation will also impact positively on societal acceptance. This will allow future marketing to target the areas which are likely to attract consumers and will highlight areas where further what information for consumers may increase their acceptance of the products.
The Quality Certification of agro-food products through the quality labels Protected Origin Denomination (POD), Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) and Specialty Certification (SC), aims to support these products by increasing their market value. Increasing market value of traditional food products by use of Quality Labels (PDO, PGI, etc.) would support this strategy is a viable alternative. Simultaneously, they can contribute to the conservation of endangered local animal breeds and plant varieties, thus helping to maintain a reservoir of genetic diversity. The main impact of the project is expected to be the contribution of the project to remedy the issues raised in the SCAR Collaborative Working Group on Sustainable Animal Production report, that future development of the European Animal Production sector will need to build on the sustainability triangle of economic competitiveness, social acceptability and environmental protection.