A meat processor in the north-east of England is hoping to cash in on the reputation of beef from the region by launching a premium brand called Grand Reserve.

Darlington-based Country Valley Foods is aiming the new product at local butchers, delis and restaurants which need consistent eating quality.

Newcastle chef Marcus Bennett said using the meat was already enhancing his reputation.

That is because the Grand Reserve brand only appears on matured prime cuts from cross breeds that have been extensively grass-fed and reach R4L specification, said chairman Stewart Munro.

“Farmers can earn 10p/kg above the national average if their animal hits every specification.

We have to build the brand so that we can build the premium.”

Chairman of the National Beef Association, Duff Burrell said:

“On a 300kg carcass that was an extra £30, which is very welcome.”

Packaging will bear the English Beef and Lamb Executive’s Quality Standard mark, after the body granted £45,000 for the launch.

As a result Country Valley says its relationship with farmers is a partnership, where feeding and finishing programmes are developed together and customer trends shared.

Throughput is expected to reach 15 animals a week, sourced from five north-east farmers and a local abattoir.

Marketing manager Laura Bishop said a buyer from one of the big five supermarkets was already interested in stocking the premium meat locally.

“One concern is about getting the volumes necessary, and we don’t want to rush it,” she said.

Country Valley was looking to native breeds to supply the brand in the future, she added.

The harder-to-sell forequarter meat is being put into ready meals made by a local manufacturer and minced into Grand Reserve burgers.

And if it all takes off, Country Valley is hoping to launch branded lamb when it becomes available later in the year.

sam.fortescue@rbi.co.uk