8 March 2002

Consumer rules global market

THE UK meat industry is operating in a very competitive global market in which the customer was still king and bought on perceived value for money, said Mike Gooding of Farmers First.

Eating habits were influenced by many factors including eating quality, plate wastage, preparation convenience, food scares, fashion and price, he told the Rosemaund meeting.

But several seminar speakers acknowledged that only 53% of lamb and 45% of beef carcasses classified by MLC hit optimum conformation and fat class targets.

However, work is in progress to improve the carcass quality of crossbred ewes which dominate prime lamb production and the way their progeny classify on the hook, reported Karen Wheeler, ADAS Rosemaund scientific officer.

She said the research unit was one of several linked to a DEFRA/MLC-funded breeding project to develop a selection index to improve longwool breeds and their progeny, while maintaining reproductive performance and maternal ability.

Rosemaund was involved in assessing these traits in Mule ewes bred from Hardy Speckled Face and Scottish Blackface dams and a range of Bluefaced Leicester rams. It was also assessing the growth and carcass traits of their lambs sired by high and low index rams from three terminal sire breeds.

Ms Wheeler said early results indicated that using high index Bluefaced rams produced ewe and wether mule lambs with more muscle and less fat. When ewe lambs were mated with high index terminal sire tups their progeny had 3-5% more muscle and 2% heavier cold carcass weights than those from low index rams.

"This project is important, as improving lamb conformation by one class from O to R would put an extra £17m in producers pockets."

She added that the work would demonstrate that sire referencing and indexing identified rams that significantly improved flock performance.