5 May 1995

Keep calves at home to profit

MOST calves currently being exported alive at a few weeks old could be more profitably reared and finished at home, and then exported as beef.

That is view of Richard Cracknell, head of British activities for Anglo Beef Processors (ABP), which runs seven abattoirs and two frozen meat businesses in England and Scotland and is currently exporting about 30% of its output from them.

"What we are doing with live calf exports is exporting well over 2000 jobs at our abattoirs and on farms, and losing the opportunity to strengthen the reputation and volume of British beef sales in Europe," said Mr Cracknell.

He was speaking at an open day last Saturday at his firms plant near Ellesmere, Shropshire, which with some 600 farmer members of a Traditional Beef Group, concentrates on supplying specially matured traditional beef for the Sainsbury supermarket chain.

Mr Cracknell said that if the calves being exported for veal production were instead finished here for export beef, he was confident that his firm and others would be able to find profitable export markets for that beef.

"If the Continental veal trade is not supplied from Britain, calves will simply be sourced from other European countries where at present they are being finished for export beef markets which we could easily take over," said Mr Cracknell.

"The suggestion that the only calves going to Europe are from Holstein cows does not wash, and has pushed up calf prices right across the board for UK feeders," he said.

At the Ellesmere open day Sainsburys fresh meat manager Peter Morrison reported that about 5000 British farmers are now supplying his firms retail outlets with farm assured meat.

At present it accounts for about 20% of sales, but Mr Morrison said that the Sainsbury target is for all its meat to come from farms producing to its specifications, and estimated that this would probably soon involve over 20,000 farmers, including its Danish and Dutch suppliers of bacon.