Beef processor St Merryn Foods has announced a new elite membership club for some of its existing suppliers, with suckler beef earmarked for retailers’ flagship brands.

St Merryn says it plans to roll out the scheme gradually, aiming to supply 2000 and 500 cattle a week into Tesco’s Finest and Organic ranges respectively.

The firm’s producers’ club manager John Dracup said the scheme would attract progressive farmers from the existing dedicated producer membership.

“To be eligible for the scheme the farmer must have consistently supplied St Merryn for at least two years and met our quality criteria.”

Producers would need to be farm-assured and all farms would be inspected, he added.

The St Merryn Suckler Scheme was designed to ensure consistent quality supply for the processor, he said, but also aimed to give beef farmers the confidence to invest and remain in suckler beef production.

NFU livestock chairman Richard Haddock said: “Farmers urgently need clear signals to give them confidence to remain in beef production and the NFU supports contractual arrangements that give farmers a fair return.”