7 September 2001

Good taste of tradition…

Satisfying niche markets for

beef with traditional,

traceable stock, sold

through independent

butchers, is resulting in good

demand from consumers, as

John Burns finds out

THERE is strong demand for Hereford beef cattle produced on a traditional system with full traceability, back to the actual animal and farm it was reared on, from consumers who appreciate traditional service and quality.

That is the experience of beef producer David Powell, Awnells Farm, Much Marcle on the Glos/Hereford border, who has built up a strong demand for his stock which is sold to butchers.

Some of his herds bloodlines go back 170 years, although not all his 60 Hereford cows are registered pedigree. He has also enthusiastically joined the Rare Breed Survival Trusts scheme to rescue and build up the traditional strain of Hereford.

Mr Powells Street herd has 27 of these rare animals, of all ages including calves. The total UK population of traditional Herefords is only about 300 cows at present. His other pedigree cows carry the Awnells prefix and some of his non-pedigree cows are of mainly traditional breeding.

After a butcher he supplied remarked that the beef from the traditional strain was of better quality than modern Herefords, Mr Powell needed no further encouragement to give more attention to the traditionals and to expand numbers. Now only traditional Hereford bulls are used on his 60 cows and heifers.

Hed always maintained that you cant taste conformation and felt Estimated Breeding Values gave too much emphasis to growth rate and neglected eating quality. "Its a pity we dont use the Australian star rating system for grading beef which takes eating quality into account."

Mr Powell has long believed that the way to encourage consumption of beef was to provide consistently good eating quality and a branded product, traceable to the farm where it was produced.

Details of the production system should also be made available and customers encouraged to check this out by visiting the farm, he adds.

Diets for his cattle are based around grazed grass, supplemented with barley straw, or hay when available, and concentrates for winter feeding.

Even in summer, cattle due to go for slaughter are housed for three to four weeks and fed on straw and concentrates. "This gets the grass out of them and finishes them properly," he says.

Only organic fertiliser is used and beef is the only source of income for the farm, apart from a small enterprise making organic cider.

Most cattle sold from Awnells Farm achieve a price of about 190p/kg deadweight with no deductions, but traditional Hereford cattle to be sold through the Rare Breeds Survival Trust shop earn 212p/kg, again with no deductions – except £7 a head to the trusts funds.

HEREFORD STOCK

&#8226 Traditional taste best.

&#8226 Reared mostly on grass.

&#8226 Finished inside.