13 June 1997

Meatgold link-up to set new standards

CATTLE rearing group Meatgold is linking up with abattoir Midland Meat Packers to launch a new beef marketing scheme – Gold Standard.

The aim is to take stock from dedicated Meatgold units, produced to Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb (FABBL) standards, and present the carcasses to supermarket buyers as Gold Standard products.

Daventry-based Meatgold, which traded as Berry Quality Livestock until April this year, currently markets 5000 head of cattle a year for about 50 farmers. "We operate as a club, rather than a co-op, aiming to produce as uniform a product as possible for our buyers," says MD John Bell.

The emphasis is on quality assurance and traceability. Calves are procured from designated markets and reared on FABBL-approved farms, before being placed on finishing units. All are fed the same ration from Berrystock Feed, with full constituent traceability. Meatgold fieldsmen select the finished animals to meet tight buyer specifications.

Most of the cattle are Continental breeds, including dairy crosses. Since 1991, the company has had its own passport system and database, which now runs along side MAFFs national scheme.

"This is not just another quality assurance scheme," says Mr Bell. "We cover every facet of the chain from buying the calf to supplying the supermarket.

"The beef industry has had two hits in the last year – BSE and the rise in sterling. Were now into a new era and we have to compete head on with world suppliers. The aim has to be to get our operation as efficient as possible and to get the best yield we can."

According to Midland Meat Packers procurement officer, Tim Bastable, the aim is to get about 10% of abattoir throughput to the new Gold Standard in the first year. Negotiations are "on going" to establish a premium.n