Originality needed for UK meat

The UK meat industry needs to get original and think in terms of product rather than commodity, according to Professor David Harvey.

Speaking at the BMPA conference last week, Harvey, from the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at the University of Newcastle, told delegates that consumers were looking for - and not getting - diversity.

"I'm still trying to work out why supermarkets are still so powerful when what we want is diversity. The supermarkets are all the same. I'm afraid that's not the tool for commercial success."

He highlighted the fact that, to an economist, the UK has near-ideal conditions for agriculture, in terms of geography, climate and expertise and skills. "We live in a most blessed part of the planet and if you can't make farming in Britain, then where the hell are you going to."

However, he admitted that the reality was very different and that was in part down to over-regulation: "We've seen that in the pig business, when the government saw fit to incorporate higher welfare standards than those of your competitors.

"So you get the result you'd expect - we'll not produce in this country, we'll produce it elsewhere."

He said that, for the agriculture sector to survive, beyond simply turning the industry into either a ranch-style, industrial farming model, or a country park, land management operation businesses had to diversify and start looking for originality and added value.

"Growth does not necessarily equate to success; economies of scale have been everything up to now.

"It's about about marketing products not commodities; they're rare, they're inimitable, valuable and non-substitutable. There's no such thing as meat - there's a huge diversity of meat products. Corporate success depends on being original."

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