12 September 1997

Tesco club open to assurance members only

In the second of our series looking at beef producer clubs, set up to meet demand for improved quality assurance and traceability, Jonathan Riley finds out whats required to sell into the Tesco scheme

ALL producers aiming to join Tescos producer club must be a member of a recognised national assurance scheme.

Producer clubs are administered by processors which supply Tescos in the south west, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the south and so national schemes such as SQABL or FABBL will be applicable – depending on the processor.

Target membership is for 4500 beef producers supplying all Tesco beef by 1998 and separate targets are set for the four administration sites.

The south wests club is based at St Merryn Meats, Probus Cornwall, and its aim is 2000 members by next January. "We are well on target with 1500 registered to date," says John Dracup of St Merryn Producer Club.

"As we approach capacity we will look to sourcing from farmers who are producing beef away from the traditional finishing times to create a more even supply. Prosp-ective members, after completing the inspection, then agree to commit a certain number of animals to the scheme each year. This helps us to know how much throughput we are likely to have and where peaks and troughs in supply will occur.

"The producers commitment forms the basis of a bonus scheme, with payments of up to £10 a head made according to the percentage of stock committed which grade over O+. For example, £10 a head is paid if 90-100% of the committed number grade E or U."

Premiums of 5p/kg are also paid for animals which have fat class 2-4L up to U- conformation and up to 10p/kg for E,U+. Suckled calves also attract a 5p/kg premium, and a further 5p/kg is paid for those reared according to the RSPCA Freedom Foods scheme.

Central to the scheme is the feed declaration signed by producers which details all feeds used from birth to finishing. Inform-ation is then entered on to a database which can be used to pinpoint stock fed on certain rations.

"Fishmeal derived from renewable fish stocks, for example, has not been banned because we feel it can provide producers with cost effective growth. But for buyers who do not want stock fed fishmeal, we can identify beef produced from fishmeal-free rations.

"This also applies to certain growth enhancers we feel have a benefit for the animal as well as for the financial reward for the producer.

"Cheaper feeds are available from BOCM Pauls because the club has used its buying power to form links with the company. It will also supply free forage and ration analysis for members regardless of where they source feed," says Mr Dracup. But feed can be sourced from any mill if it has achieved ISO9002 quality standards to give more freedom of choice for producers, he adds.

The club also accepts heifers steers and bulls of any breed to fit in better with the existing systems.

Carcass specification

Weight 270kg to 360kg

Fat class penalties unless 2 to 4L

Conformation penalties unless E,U,R,

Target animal

Steers, heifers, or bulls

Age 12-30 months

preferred suckler bred

Breeds accepted

All breeds

Members

1500 registered

Target 2000

Banned feeds

No growth promoters

Financial incentives

Fat class 2-4L +5p/kg for U spec

Fat class 2-4L +10p/kg E,U+

+5p/kg single suckled

+5p/kg RSPCA registered

Farm assurance

All national assurance schemes recognised

Audits/Inspection

Inspection by processors

Treaceability

All animals back to farm of birth

Database of all scheme producers