14 April 1995

Markets exist – but demand key

The Meat and Livestock Commissions Options for Calves conference last week offered useful advice on alternative rearing systems for surplus calves. Rebecca Austin reports

MARKETS exist for a range of meats at home and abroad, Colin Maclean, MLC director general told the London conference.

Mr Maclean offered a list of alternative markets for surplus dairy calves (see table), but said the key was the strength of the markets demand. "Exploiting these opportunities must be based on producing a product that matches market requirements.

"The intensive bull beef and more traditionally finished beef for home and export markets are well proven end markets at which any home producer can aim."

The UK consumed 2100t of veal a year, 80% of which was imported. Catering accounted for 65% of demand, mostly imported, and 35% was retailed, about half of which was imported.

Mr Maclean admitted it would be unrealistic in the medium term to do more than gain a big share of the home veal market with British group-reared veal. "As we prove that we can gain more share of our market, we then need to persuade all producers to use better Continental crosses as their basic raw material."

The Dutch fed 200,000 calves a year into the light beef market, where demand was fickle, he said. It was developed by the Dutch veal industry to mitigate the effects of low profitability of white veal production. "This market is at present largely a niche to independent butchers or cost caterers," said Mr Maclean.

"Having identified market opportunities, we must ensure the best possible quality meat is produced to match these requirements. One of the biggest challenges the beef market continues to face is the ability to produce a product of consistent quality."


Beef systems for dairy-bred calves

Heifer beefIntensive beef18-month beefEuropean vealUK vealLight beef

Age (months)8-1010-141816-26 weeks16-22 weeks6-8

Carcass weight (kg)200-250260-300250-300120-160100-140160-180

SexHeifersBullsSteersBullsHeifersBulls

HeifersHeifers

BreedCont xCont xCont xCont xCont xCont x

HolsteinHolsteinHolsteinTrad xHolstein

Trad x

SectorRetailRetailRetailRetailRetailInstitutional catering

CateringCateringCateringCateringCateringIndependent butchers

MarketsSouthern EuropeEuropeEuropeEuropeUKEurope

Source: MLC