17 November 2000


For UK stock farmers who have survived the financial storm there is now a

glimmer of better times ahead, as MLC experts explained to Harry Hope

MLC national accounts controller Richard Cullen is at the sharp end of the red meat promotion business. His department implements the promotion and advertising policies approved by the Commissions beef, pig and sheep strategy councils.

He says: "We are forging ever-closer links with all parties in the red meat chain including producers, slaughter processors and retailers. Total co-ordination on advertising and promotion is now delivering substantial benefits."

The last quarters sales figures for beef show expenditure up 6% coupled with an 11% increase in volume. After a difficult few years lamb is also starting to respond positively and last quarters expenditure and sales volume both increased by 9%.

He says: "This is a very big deal for lamb compared with a long term gradual decline in consumption by an ageing consumer profile and which is now being addressed."

Sales volume

He is particularly encouraged by beef and lamb penetration, up 5% and 6% respectively and defined as the number of households buying both meats. The importance of these figures is that you need to get households buying lamb and beef in the first place before you can achieve increased sales volume.

All sectors of the meat trade have responded enthusiastically to the latest beef and lamb consumer advertising campaign featuring Harry Enfield. Retailer in-store support has been positive with point-of-sale material, shelf talkers, life-sized cut-outs and over 1.5m free recipe booklets distributed.

Pigmeat promotion is a separate issue reflecting the totally assured home product which now includes both producers and the slaughter-processing sector. For the last quarter expenditure on fresh pork was up 4% despite a 1% decline in volume. The latter decline was to be expected following a substantial 20% drop in home production. Fresh pork sales are essentially holding their position in the market place and the MLC is now also encouraging retailers to stock home-produced bacon carrying the British Quality Standard Bacon logo.

The latest phase of the MLCs pigmeat promotion campaign has a strong regional emphasis and identifies producers who deserve support because of their efforts to produce a safe, high quality, welfare friendly and fully assured product. The slogan "Look for the farmers who look after their pigs," says it all.

Richard Cullen… Co-ordination is delivering substantial benefits.

Prospects improving

Over the last four years all beef, pig and sheep producers have endured catastrophic declines in income with many enterprises incurring substantial losses. Contributory factors have included the BSE crisis, the collapse of Russian and Far Eastern export outlets, which hit all EU meat exporters, and the adverse Euro-to-Sterling exchange rate. But for those UK farmers who have survived the financial storm there is now a glimmer of better times ahead. Room for cautious optimism, coupled with the need to produce quality assured meats which satisfy the stringent standards demanded by critical consumers, come from staff at the Meat and Livestock Commission.

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