Beef cows eating silage.(c) Tim Scrivener

West Country farmers are planning to club together to get more value from the protected status of their beef.

The National Beef Association (NBA) wants to create an online directory of beef producers with animals eligible to carry the protected geographical indication (PGI) label.

The NBA hopes retailers and processors will be better able to find farmers producing premium beef and lamb, encouraging them to stock and market the brand more widely.

West Country beef and lamb was granted PGI status by the EU in January.

To qualify, cattle and sheep have to be born, reared and finished in the six south-west counties, eat a minimum 70% forage diet and reach a required specification.

See also: How PGI status benefits beef and lamb producers

 Bill Harper, chairman of the NBA’s TB committee, said now the accreditation had been granted, farmers had to make the most of it.

“We need to take ownership of the brand,” he said. “It has got to come from us because the processor won’t spend any money; the retailer won’t spend any money.”

Money raised from last week’s Beef South West event in Exeter will help fund the website.

Any producer club would be run in conjunction with Meat South West, the group that managed the initial PGI application.

Southern senior regional manager for Eblex Phil Hadley, who sits on the Meat South West board, said no one  knows how many eligible cattle are out there, as farmers are not legally required to declare them as PGI-qualified.

“This will give a feel for how many animals are on the ground,” he said.

“From a retailer perspective, it might give them the confidence to grow the brand wider and quicker, giving them the assurance the animals are there.”

In March, Jaspers and Dawn Meats became the first processors approved to market West Country beef and lamb with PGI status.

This week Tesco announced it would use West Country PGI beef nationwide in its Finest range steak pies, with meat sourced from the Two Sisters abattoir in Bodmin.