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Retail Tactics Strangle UK Beef Industry

28 October 2010

UK - World renowned red meat professionals cannot understand why the UK beef industry is wasting so many tender and higher value muscles from a beef carcase by grinding it down to a super-cheap mince product – instead of offering it to satisfy consumers as a relatively inexpensive alternative to top priced steak cuts like fillet, sirloin or rump.

Beef sector specialists in the United States have told the National Beef Association that as soon as their industry noticed consumers were shying away from the most expensive steaks they collectively set about creating second tier alternatives from previously unused tender muscles in the carcase.

As a result, they quickly constructed an entirely new range of medium priced beef cuts that maintained beef sales, while also helping to sustain beef production by injecting additional income into the supply chain.

“The contrast between the imaginative, hard working, beef sector specialists in the US and the lack of inventiveness displayed by some of our processing and retail industries could hardly be greater,” said NBA director, Kim Haywood.

“As soon as US operators saw that both cattle production and employment within the processing sector were under threat they took a professional position that soon eliminated the danger by opening up an entirely new range of more economic, restaurant and retail beef cuts, to hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic new consumers.”

“Faced with a similar, recession led, situation in the UK the response from dominant, but unimaginative, supermarkets had been to stack their shelves with mince and rely on a dinosaur concept of pile-it-high-and-sell-it-cheap, tactics to lift them out of trouble.”

Not surprisingly, says the NBA, beef farming in the UK is now approaching an economic crisis in which many cattle farmers will rush for the exit, most of them never to return to producing beef, unless there is a quick lift in their incomes – which can never come from just selling mince.

“Neither beef farming, or others in the beef sector, can maintain even supplies and prosper if valuable beef muscles is being turned into a low price commodity like mince, which sells at an average of £3.63p a kilo instead of being used to produce intermediate value steak and roasts, which could retail at a higher value per kilo instead,” said Ms Haywood.

“Mince is the cheapest fresh beef product on the market and already accounts for exactly half of all retail income. Our uninventive industry should hang its head in shame but the real problem is the monolithic thinkers at the top of some retail and catering chains have still to understand the depth of the error they have made.”

“Everyone has been let down by this dinosaur thinking. Consumers looking for medium priced alternatives to top-line steak cannot find any, farmers are already well on the way to producing less cattle because they cannot absorb repeated loses, and processors who rely on continued cattle supplies to stay in business, could face closer as well.”

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