Aussies target UK market with branded beef and lamb

The NFU is encouraging foodservice professionals to back farmers by actively sourcing local, British produce after Australian red meat producers announced plans to target the UK market with branded beef and lamb products.

Following the free-trade agreement signed between the UK and Australia in 2021, the Aussie Beef and Lamb (ABL) brand, which is funded by red meat levies from livestock farmers, is launching in the UK with the goal of breaking into the retailers and foodservice industry.

Responding to the news, NFU president Minette Batters said the union had warned all along that the UK-Australia trade deal had the potential to undermine the market for UK livestock producers.

See also: Australian beef output poses risk to UK as trade deal begins

“This shows why our dismay and anger at the deal has the potential to be really damaging for UK beef and lamb producers,” said Ms Batters.

“We will monitor the situation closely and will look to report any distortion to the market.”

The NFU has repeatedly warned that the foodservice sector could be most vulnerable to imports precisely because there are not the same labelling requirements as in retail.

Mrs Batters said foodservice professionals looking for sustainable, high-quality, nutritious food should look no further than local, British produce.

“They can be confident that buying British means food is climate-friendly, safe and fully lifetime traceable, providing the provenance the public increasingly appreciates,”  she added.

With its UK launch, ABL says it aims to service a percentage of the 400,000t of beef and 80,000t of sheepmeat which is already imported into the UK from overseas countries each year.

Brand identifiable

Liz Webster, founder of farm lobby Save British Farming, said she was pleased UK consumers will be able to identify Australian red meat by the ABL brand, but described the marketing around these products as “questionable”.

“The claim that grain-fed, mass-produced beef is tastier and better for the environment is pushing the boundaries of truth,” she said.

“We all know that sustainably reared, grass-fed, locally produced British meat is by far the best choice for the environment and for public health and animal welfare.”

Mrs Webster also urged the ABL brand to explain if their beef is derived from hormone-fed cattle and detail the amount of antibiotics used and welfare conditions in which animals are reared.

The UK-Australia free-trade agreement came into force on 31 May this year. According to the AHDB, the current limit of tariff-free beef imports into the UK is 20,616t per calendar year (1 January to 31 December).

The tariff rate quota of Australian beef will continue to grow from 2023 to 2033, up to 110,000t.