8 December 2000

Vital to exploit publics view that meat from grass is safe

WITH limited scope for a sizeable improvement in prices for beef cattle, the industry must look to exploit the public perception that meat from grass is safe.

Bryan Evans of the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research told delegates attending the BGS Winter Meeting in Stafford that despite a battle to contain costs against falling income since BSEs arrival, net farm incomes – even on technically efficient units – have reached historical lows.

Output and costings vary considerably with over £100/ha (£40/acre) difference either side of the sector average.

"MAFF data tells us that variable costs have fallen, but overheads have continued to rise since 1995," he said.

Chance for innovation

Opportunity for innovation and investment is limited, with less than a third of beef producers being 40 years old or younger; that in itself could raise questions over succession.

To complicate matters, the swing of subsidies away from production to a non-food basis only serves to complicate decisions which must be made by beef farmers, he said.

Beef producers must be broad minded enough to look at opportunities such as switching feeding regimes, adopting technology such as sexed semen and forming closer liaisons – possibly producer groups – to exploit each others skills, urged Mr Evans.