16 November 2001

MARKETS

RESPOND TO CHANGES OR LOSE SALES

LIVESTOCK farmers and abattoir operators have to recognise the meat market is changing, and to respond or lose out to imports.

Yvonne Dawson, who leads one of the teams encouraging retailers to sell and promote British meat, says attitudes and relationships will have to change.

"Retailers know what they want and they will buy it abroad if UK farms and processors cannot, or will not, supply it," claims Ms Dawson. "Each sector of the supply chain has to communicate better. We need an adult approach and grown-up professional conversations; there is now no option."

In her view the big retailers are not encouraging the creation of producer groups because they want to control farmers, but to get consistent supplies of quality meat."

John Grey heads MLCs Food Service Division, which works with the UKs 300,000 catering outlets. His job is to get more British meat on menus, whether hospital cooks or top restaurant chefs write them.

He too wants improved communication so that farmers and processors have a better understanding of the needs of an industry worth £21bn a year.

"About 34p in every £ spent on meat is for eating out and by 2015 it will be 50p. We are talking up the quality of British red meat, and trying to get more processors switched on to caterers requirements."

These would in turn encourage farmers to meet the specifications, as happened with producers on the Lleyn Peninsular in north Wales, who supply cattle through Cwmni Cig Arfons abattoir for Booker Caterings Extra Mature Beef range.

"We need an adult approach and grown-up professional conversations" – Yvonne Dawson.

"We are trying to get more processors switched on to caterers requirements" – John Grey.