Launched at Somerset’s Royal Bath & West Show last week, the contract guarantees suppliers a minimum of 280p/kg deadweight, plus bonuses of up to £20 a head for meeting quality and supply targets.
“We firmly believe that the best way to get quality beef is to work closely with producers,” said Rob Cumine, agricultural manager for beef, lamb and milk at M&S. “The M&S Organic Beef Producers’ Club offers the perfect vehicle and we are sure it is going to be a big success.”
The club would help farmers create a sustainable organic beef business and give them the confidence to plan ahead and invest, said Mr Cumine. Managed by a small group of farmers, plus experts from M&S and Chitty, the club offered an added benefit of marketing support and a unique farm assurance standard.
Sussex farmer John Goodman said the club would enable members to reduce costs through combined buying power, and increase output through improved genetics. “I’m supplying about half my beef to M&S at the moment and it will be nice to have the confidence to supply more.”
About 30 farmers have already signed up to the scheme and Mr Cumine expected to source all of M&S’s organic beef from club members in the future. The initiative forms part of the retailer’s eco-project, Plan A, which aims to triple organic food sales over five years and double regional food sourcing within 12 months.
“We want to open more stores in the south-west because the interest in local food here is greater than any other region in the UK. We are now building towards completely local sourcing of organic beef.”