26 July 2002

What makes best?

PROCESSORS and producers often have different ideas of what makes a quality animal and many of the points which breeders look for in a bull simply end up in the waste bin, says a leading abattoir.

What producers sought in breeding stock was not always what abattoirs wanted, said Laurie Ibbotson, cattle development manager for Dovecote Park. "While good feet, sound legs and testicle size are important for producers, retailers are unable to market them and producers do not get paid for them."

Dovecote Park, which supplies Aberdeen Angus and Hereford beef exclusively to Waitrose, requires cattle with long loins and well-defined rumps, the parts of the beast most in demand from consumers, said Miss Ibbotson

But producers at the open day felt that abattoirs and retailers were sending out confusing messages that were leading to producers being penalised for supplying cattle of the wrong specification.

"Everyone says they want quality meat, but no one is willing to define exactly what quality is. It seems to be another buzzword which is being bandied about and is confusing producers and consumers alike," said one Worcs-based producer.

While MLCs Duncan Pullar was able to define quality, he did concede that no single definition could suit the entire supply chain.

"Quality is defined as fitness for the purpose. But as you move further down the supply chain the purpose changes and so does the definition, therefore no one should be too quick to make definitions." &#42