A new ‘dairy centre of excellence’ opened by Tesco yesterday (22 January) will help boost the competitiveness of the British dairy industry, according to the retail giant.

The research and development site at Liverpool University’s Park farm in the Wirral is the first time a retailer has formed such a unique alliance with a veterinary University. It brings together farmers, processors and other industry experts to develop new ways of tackling a range of issues, from animal welfare to changing consumer attitudes.

Key areas the centre will look at include: ways to help farmers deliver commercial benefits on farm; explore consumer trends and product innovation; animal welfare; environmental best practice; and milk quality.

The centre will build on Tesco’s existing initiatives, such as Local Choice milk and the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group. A visitor centre is also planned.

“Our ambition for the centre is to work closely with our producers, processors and members of the industry in identifying and focussing on today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, testing new technologies and developing a range of best practices,” Tesco’s Lucy Neville Rolfe said.

“The unit itself is ideally located close to some of our major milk pools in Cheshire and Lancashire. The set up is close in nature to a typical Tesco farm supplier making it an ideal testing ground for us.”

The link with Liverpool University means the centre will have direct access to some of the best specialists in the country covering areas such as herd health and nutrition, Emma Rutler, Tesco dairy agricultural manager added.

Rob Smith, head of livestock health and welfare division at the University welcomed the launch of the centre. “Our relationship with Tesco and their suppliers will allow us to produce the knowledge and the vets the industry needs to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare, food safety and quality in the future.”