Gorse is an evergreen shrub with distinctive yellow flowers which has invaded many Scottish landscapes - and it could one day feed the whole of Scotland.
Researchers from the University of Aberdeen found that gorse - which has been fed to animals in the past - has 17% protein.
Speaking at a Science Media Centre event, Prof Wendy Russell, at the University of Aberdeen, told the Guardian, “Gorse and broom were fed to cattle at times when crops failed in the past, so we think protein from these types of plants could be used as animal food. If protein isolates are produced in the correct way, so to be safe, they could be considered as human food in the future.”
“The whole point about gorse is it is actively being removed from marginal lands – it’s something we can gain protein from at no extra cost.
“We have a huge amount of gorse all over Scotland and when we did the calculations, just by active removal from marginal land, there’s enough gorse protein to easily feed the population.”
A polling report at the event found that 60% of people in the UK were willing to try plant-based alternatives to meat.
Prof Robin May, the chief scientific adviser at the FSA said: “There is a huge potential for novel proteins to have massive benefits in terms of environmental benefit, nutritional benefit, and access of a wider population.
“Our priority is to do everything possible to help businesses get those novel, innovative products safely onto the shelves as swiftly as possible.”
Research last year found that twenty large livestock companies emit more greenhouse gases than Germany, Britain or France.
According to UN statistics, 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture.
These large meat-processing firms still secure large investments from investment companies, pension funds and banks, the Meat Atlas Report found.
Between 2015 and 2020, meat and dairy companies received $478bn from 2,500 investors, the report found, according to the Guardian.
The Meat Atlas was compiled by Friends of the Earth and Heinrich Böll Stiftung, a political foundation in Europe.
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The five biggest meat and milk producers emit the same volume of greenhouse gas as oil giant Exxon, the report warned.
Meat production has grown rapidly for decades; in the 1970s, it was just one-third of current levels.
The report suggests that meat production will continue increasing, rising by 40m tonnes by 2029 to a level of 366m tonnes of meat a year.
The researchers write, “The fact that the meat industry keeps profiting through all crises while being subject to little regulation poses the question as to whom governments really listen to.
“While livestock corporations fuel the climate crisis, deforestation, pesticide use and biodiversity loss, and while they drive people off their land, they are still supported and financed by the world’s most powerful banks and investors, many of them from Europe.
“Policies on the other hand – be they on animal welfare, trade or climate – include very few restrictions on this damaging industry.”
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