22 April 1998
Coldstore no answer to Welsh lamb woes — BMMA

By Boyd Champness

BUILDING a large-scale coldstore in the heart of Wales to offer supermarkets year-round supplies of frozen lamb could backfire, according to a leading meat processor.

David Walker, president of the British Meat Manufacturers Association (BMMA) and chairman of McKey Food Service, has warned against building a massive freezer in Wales to store lamb.

The Commons Welsh Affairs Committee inquiry into the livestock industry heard yesterday that a coldstore might be the answer to the sheepmeat industrys problems. Such a facility would be able to offer retailers a consistant year round supply of British lamb and hopefully stem the flow of imports.

But speaking immediately after the Commons inquiry, Mr Walker said such a facility could have the effect of oversupplying the market and driving prices down.

He said the lamb market had changed dramatically in recent years. Retailers no longer wanted carcasses, but specific cuts, which would make coldstoring difficult.

“Lamb is not like beef or pork. There is very little you can do with lamb offcuts in the manufacturing side of things,” he said.

During the inquiry, Jill Ardagh, BMMA director, said the reason why New Zealand and Australian lamb was popular was because both countries had geared themselves to supply meat manufacturers.

Mr Walker added that he didnt think the UK could match the consistency of product offered by those two countries even with coldstore facilities.

“In Australia and New Zealand, if you look at their production lines, all those lambs look like peas in a pod,” he said.

In the BMMAs written submission to the inquiry, it says the reason why manufacturers largely source lamb and mutton from Australia and New Zealand was because of price, quality and availability.

“The deboned frozen form in which it is supplied, together with its consistent conformity to visual lean specifications, traceability and competitive price, make it highly suitable for processing,” the BMMA paper said.

Also, Australia and New Zealand enjoy TSE-free status which provides some security against stock losses at a time when British beef and sheepmeat are subject to close scrutiny by SEAC – the Governments BSE advisory body.

“There is a willingness across the industry to use British meat, but as I said before there are certain constraints including quality, consistency and price which come into question,” Miss Ardagh said.