2 March 2001

Quality emphasis means fast growth for Biff Llyn

By Robert Davies

Wales correspondent

A QUALITY meat contract with a leading catering supplier has allowed one small marketing group based in north-west Wales to expand rapidly.

Originally, 36 farmers attended the inaugural meeting of Biff Llyn (Lleyn Beef) in 1997, when they decided to develop links with local retailers and catering outlets on the Lleyn Peninsula.

Their cattle are reared using traditional grass-based systems, which they hope will counter adverse publicity about mad cow disease.

After establishing some membership guidelines, the group has really taken off. Cattle have to be from Farm Assured Welsh Livestock farms, no bulls can be sold and all animals must be three-quarters beef bred.

Since then throughput has grown from a modest 10 cattle/week, taking off in 1998 when the abattoir started supplying carcasses to Booker UK for marketing to caterers as traditionally hung extra mature beef.

All the groups stock is slaughtered by Cwmni Cig Arfon at Caernarfon. And although two other producer groups supply cattle for the contract, Biff Llyn members have can provide 51% of the kill, which has peaked at 400 head/week.

Eligible animals must have made only one move between farms, and carcasses should weigh 240-340kg. These must classify R or better for conformation and fall into fat classes 2, 3 and 4L. To encourage year round production the premium varies between 12p and 18p/kg above the abattoirs base price.

Because the abattoir takes three to four weeks to pay, the group has arranged a cash factoring service with Farmers Marts, a co-operative auction company that also acts as a procurement link between producers and the slaughterhouse. The company pays farmers within a week for a 2.25% commission fee.

Special suckled calf sales are held in May and September to supply top quality animals to specialist finishers.

Carol Thomas, a dairy farmers wife, helped set up the producer group. Now she is its chief executive and in her time at the helm she has seen membership grow from 120 to 165 in a year. The focus now is on quality and this means buying high index bulls and alleviating the Holstein influence by persuading breeders to use composite cows.

"Members accept that quality is the key to future sales at premium prices," claims Mrs Thomas. "Biff Llyn can supply what the market wants and demand is growing, so there is good growth potential. The procurement area is now the whole of Wales."

Idwal Jones, who runs 170 sucklers at Trefaes Fawr on the Lleyn Peninsula, says the main advantages of group membership are accessing established outlets and improving quality. &#42

BIFFLLYN

&#8226 Group grown tremendously.

&#8226 Catering contract with Bookers.

&#8226 Focus on quality.