Farmer involvement is key to red meat export effort

Farmers have a key role to play in helping the meat trade generate additional export revenue, by showcasing all that is good about British livestock production.

Addressing the recent AHDB meat export conference in London, senior exports manager Susan Stewart explained how the organisation had hosted a delegation of five Japanese meat buyers and two agri-food journalists to the UK in May.

See also: AHDB sector reports set out five-year spending priorities

“We visited abattoirs, a retailer, and farmers,” she explained.

“It was the first time they had ever been to a British farm. It gave them an opportunity to really touch and feel the sheep’s wool, to see the dogs working, and witness grass-based systems.

“Having animals in an outside environment, growing naturally with high welfare sets us apart from some of our competitors.”

Ms Stewart explained that, since reopening in 2019, Japan had become the UK’s highest value beef export market outside Europe, worth £15m, while lamb sales there had tripled in the past year.

Since the inward mission in May, a number of new deals had been done with the Japanese buyers, she added, including “fifth-quarter” products such as tongues and bones for broth, which are especially sought after by Japanese consumers.

The AHDB is hosting another international delegation – with buyers from Asia, the Middle East and the Americas – in July.

It will include a trip to farms and the Great Yorkshire Show, to again illustrate the provenance of UK beef and lamb.


The comments came on the day the AHDB launched its new “Beyond Borders” strategy, which includes a seven-point plan to help grow the UK’s red meat exports.

The plan includes expert training and a revived trade show programme.

According to AHDB international trade development director Phil Hadley, this was one of the key demands from levy payers during last year’s Shape the Future consultation.

Mr Hadley explained that, despite some extremely challenging circumstances – including the relatively high cost of UK livestock – red meat exports had hit a record £1.7bn in 2022.

“This just shows how critical exports are to farmers and meat businesses,” he said.

AHDB chairman Nick Saphir agreed that UK red meat exports had “momentum”, and this should be maintained as exports had been shown to enhance margins across the supply chain.

While the UK could not compete as a commodity producer, it could offer quality, provenance, and professional delivery that made him optimistic about the opportunities to grow exports.