20 November 1998

POWELLS LABELLING DREAM COMES TRUE

One Herefordshire beef breeder called for better labelling in a Smithfield supplement seven

years ago, and hes among the first to take part in the new scheme. Jeremy Hunt reports

DAVID Powell was certainly ahead of the game when he called for the introduction of a national beef labelling scheme.

Seven years on, during which time the image of British beef has suffered immeasurable damage through the ramifications of BSE, Mr Powell is still producing top quality pure Hereford beef from his farm at Much Marcle in Herefordshire.

A staunch supporter of native breeds, Mr Powell believes MAFFs new labelling scheme will give long-awaited recognition to those farmers and butchers who strive to produce and retail top quality British beef.

By 2000 all beef sold to the public will have to carry a label giving information relating to the farm of origin.

The Powell family have owned Hereford cattle for 160 years. There are now 65 cows in the herd at Awnells Farm and all are bred pure to produce finished cattle for Watermoor Meat Supply Co to retail through its well known butchery chain which trades as Jesse Smith and Co with W J Castle.

Watermoor Meat Supply Co has been working closely on beef labelling with Mr Powell and its other farmer suppliers for almost 18 months.

"I have always been convinced that labelling at the point of sale would be an invaluable aid to beef marketing. Im glad we have been involved at the start of the scheme because there is no doubt that consumers will continue to demand more information about where their meat comes from," says Mr Powell.

Although the value of cattle has fallen, demand for pure-bred Hereford cattle from Awnells Farm has hardly been hit by the vagaries of the market. Now Mr Powell feels the beef labelling scheme will give him an even firmer foothold in the quality beef market.

To boost consumer confidence even further, details of the farm and the way the cattle are reared are also on display in the Cotswold butchery chains shops.

For the last seven years only horned Hereford bulls have been used as the herd policy has moved away from the Canadian influence. Slaughter data and carcass information received by Mr Powell has convinced him that horned Hereford bloodlines are producing cattle with an improved killing out percentage compared with poll stock.

Mr Powell has been a prime mover in the formation of the Traditional Hereford Breeders Club.

He sells around 40 finished cattle a year to Watermoor Meat Supply Co for retailing in their four shops. The herd is mainly spring calving, but cattle are supplied all year round being finished off grass and out of yards in the winter.

Recent marketings of heifers off grass have produced carcasses of 274kg and 289kg deadweight. These cattle were approaching two-years-old after spending their second winter outside on grass, barley straw and feed-blocks. Steers, all of which have a second summer at grass, have recently been sold at up to 317kg deadweight at between 23 and 24-months-old.

A premium of 10p a kilo above the market price is being earned by these cattle – with no deductions.

David Powell – called for beef labelling seven years ago.

David Powell sells around 40 finished cattle each year to Watermoor Meat Supply Co for retailing in their four shops, which trade as Jesse Smith and Co with WJCastle. The herd is mainly spring-calving.