22 October 1999

Heifers prove popular with retail buyers

THE notable traits of early finishing, compact carcass and convenient joint size are helping heifers find favour with some finishers and retail buyers.

According to Richard Field of Midland Meat Packers – which supplies Sainsburys, Asda and discount chains – heifers are consistently topping the weekly kill of around 2500 cattle through its Northants plant.

Support for heifers was demonstrated at its annual carcass competition last week when retail buyers awarded both champion and reserve tickets to Belgium Blue X heifers.

According to Sainsburys production manager Simon Pursglove these were clearly ahead in preferred carcass traits on the night. "Were happy to take them."

Finishers, including Eckley Bros of Mundersfield, Hereford, and Chris Thomas of Kilsby, Leics – who took the championship and reserve titles respectively – also commented on the preference for females.

"You just get that bit more finish and a slighter better killing out with heifers," said Mr Thomas.

The tighter carcass also helps packers ensure joints fit into standard size supermarket cartons.

Of note to all finishers concentrating on retail-type cattle is a preference for cereal fed stock.

Producing a whiter fat, it is more acceptable to consumers than the yellowish tinge of grass-fed stock, commented meat buyers. &#42