19 May 2000

Lion makes a quality mark

By James Garner

BOTH the British egg and chicken meat industry have recognised the need to promote British produce to boost sales.

In a time of crisis, when both sectors are dogged by high levels of imports to the catering sector caused by the weakness of the k, one sector has reacted with confidence while the other is stumbling.

British Egg Industry Council chairman, Andrew Parker, told the Pig and Poultry Fair that the egg industry had orchestrated a convincing Lion Quality campaign, which had boosted egg consumption by 3% year on year,

This figure is more impressive when you consider the growth of Lion Quality egg sales, which, compared with the first three months of last year, have grown by 10%.

The schemes success comes from the 18-month salmonella flock eradication programme. This culminated on Jan 1 with the reintroduction of the Lion Quality mark to egg shells and boxes, said Mr Parker.

Meanwhile, a voluntary producer levy has raised £4m for advertising, which has seen national TV and bus campaigns focus on a healthy fast food. These promotions would continue, said Mr Parker, but with new targets.

"We need to get the chief medical officer to repeal his warning to the young and old about the danger of eating eggs. A whole generation of young people have never eaten an egg and we need to get them back." Also old people were missing out; six eggs provided six cheap and nutritious meals, he added.

But while consumption has gone up, price remains poor. According to NFU senior poultry adviser Alison Bone imports of breaking and wholesale eggs, as well as domestic oversupply, are responsible for low prices. Miss Bone reckoned that oversupply was now tightening in Europe, with its chick placings down. "Hopefully, import supply will drop and egg price increase," she added.

But while the egg industry has been a marketing success story, British chicken meat is struggling to work out how best to promote itself.

Its first response has been the launch of the assured chicken production scheme (ACP). Grampian Country Chickens Andrew Lewins said it would ensure that chicken produced under this scheme – which is likely to bear the new tractor logo – would be of the highest animal health, welfare and food safety standards.

He believed 80% of the industry would join the scheme. It will cost producers £50 to register, and a further £250 if they are one of the 25% of producers selected for an external audit at random.

Talking at a seminar at the event, Mr Lewins said chicken produced under this banner would provide customers with assurance and traceability.

But confusion remains over whether foreign chicken will be sold through the scheme and therefore under the new British Farm Standard logo. Mr Lewins clearly stated that overseas producers could comply and meet ACP standards if they wanted to under EU trade rules governing competition.

Conversely NFU president, Ben Gill, said a deal had been struck with Britains major retailers to market ACP chicken from British farms only. "They have agreed to use that label – the tractor logo – with British produce actually produced in Britain." He added that is was up to retailers discretion how they used the tractor logo.

Mr Lewins emphasised that in a price sensitive market British producers had to add value, especially in fresh chilled meat, where price is not so much of a denominator.

"The ACP scheme will help market British chicken, by playing to its strong traits of health, welfare and food safety. Despite some self-assessment the scheme would have teeth," he added. &#42


&#8226 Assured Chicken Production.

&#8226 Lion Quality egg scheme.

&#8226 Boosting British sales.

Advertising and assurance have boosted Lion Quality egg sales by a massive 10%, says BEIC chairman, Andrew Parker, with Amanda Cryer (left) and Emma Powell.