UK - Britain’s beef industry should be aiming for high quality markets and far more consistent results, according to two speakers at a Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) seminar.
This can be achieved by learning from US and Australian beef sectors and also from rival protein sectors in the UK, an audience of farmers heard yesterday at Askham Bryan College in Yorkshire.
Pioneering beef farmers Paul Westaway and Neil Rowe called on a new beef carcase grading system for the UK.
Describing the current EUROP grid system as ‘a disaster’, Mr Westaway suggested a classification that pays on quality, something British farmers can deliver on.
He added that the beef industry does not deliver a consistent enough product and needs to catch up with chicken and pork.
“I want to produce world class beef and then do exactly the same next week,” said Mr Westaway. “All the EUROP grid does is pay for volume.”
"Poultry and pig farmers have come on massively in terms of delivering a consistent product in recent years and beef needs to progress."
He explained that a raft of environment, health and safety and labour regulations puts the UK out of the race when it comes to commodity markets but stressed that British farmers can compete on quality.
Addressing the issue of consistent quality beef, he said: “Beef quality varies hugely and this is down to cattle being culled at different ages, being fed differently and being from different breeds.”
Producing out of specification cattle costs up to 60p per kilogram, according to Oxfordshire farmer, Neil Rowe, a ‘massive cost’.
He said he envies large-scale operations abroad that can produce consistent beef for a system that rewards quality.
“If you are a feedlot with 100,000 cattle on identical forages, it then becomes possible to get 80-90 per cent of your animals finished consistently,” said Mr Rowe.
“We are paid to produce the wrong things and it is not what the market wants.”