8 March 2002

Eager recruits sign up for a premium Yorkshire beef price

A MARKETINGscheme which sells meat under the "Yorkshire Beef" brand and pays farmers 5-6p/kg above the weekly average has picked up another 10 members in a recruitment drive.

The scheme was the idea of East Riding producer John Weatherill, who farms 809ha (2000 acres) at Millington Grange estate, near Pocklington.

Mr Weatherill set up the project a year ago to try to get a premium for the progeny of his own commercial and pedigree Limousin suckler herds. But interest from other farmers has allowed him to expand, and Yorkshire Beef now has 40 suppliers and a general manager, former livestock auctioneer Michael Harrison.

"At the moment we only supply whole carcasses to 10-15 retail butchers," says Mr Harrison. "But we will develop the businesss to offer boxed cuts which will also be for sale to the catering trade.

"Eventually, we hope to have our own cold storage facility at a central point so that some of the meat can go from there to a boning plant under contract to us. The rest will continue to be sold as whole carcasses."

So far the scheme has been informal. But enlisting more members will mean that a £50 annual membership fee will be required, and producers will be asked to sign a contract. Mr Harrsion says there are several rules which apply to cattle being sold under the brand name (see panel).

But he is keen to stress that Yorkshire Beef will market a farmers whole herd, and not just those animals that meet requirements.

"As we progress, we will develop more outlets for animals that do not meet the standard. But past experience tells me that there will not be many that fall into that category," he says.

"We will also promote the brand through advertising and exhibitions at shows, as well as through our web-site. In the five years we have been operating, we have marketed about 500 in total, but eventually we expect to be slaughtering 200 cattle or more a week." &#42