Chitty offers new deal for organic beef

Organic beef farmers are being urged to join in a scheme organised by the Chitty Food Group to supply Tesco.

Chitty, one of Tesco's major suppliers of organic beef, has held the first preparatory meeting for organic farmers interested in joining a groundbreaking new Organic Beef Farmers Association, dedicated to supplying Tesco with British organic beef.

David Price, Chitty's sales and marketing director, said: "Tesco wants to buy a lot more British organic beef. The aim of the Organic Beef Producers Association is to create a dedicated group of farmer suppliers who will deliver high quality organic beef to Chitty Foods to satisfy that demand."

He said Chitty has agreed to pay members of the association a minimum price, irrespective of what the market does. "We will guarantee that price for a year forward. The minimum price for this year is 280 pence a kilo.

"Under the mechanism we have devised the actual price may well be higher, depending on where the market price is. In addition, farmers will be paid an annual bonus based on the achievement of weight and grade criteria.

"In return we ask the farmers to supply at least 60 percent of any single farm's finished stock to us, through the Association, each year."

He adds: "We would like it to be more, but we accept that many organic farmers will want to continue to supply alternative outlets, like local farm shops or box schemes."

The association will be overseen by a committee with representatives of Chitty Foods and Tesco and at least three farmer members, one of whom will take the chair.

"Our aim with the Association is to do more than just buy beef," said d Price. "It will create a channel for communication between producers, Chitty Meats and Tesco, enabling us to exchange ideas on best practice. It will work to create synergies, particularly through finding sources for inputs for the whole farmer group."

The first meeting of the association was held on the Welbeck Estate near Worksop, and included a tour of the estate's farms, which feature a large area devoted to organic production.

Mark Hinton, commercial manager with the Chitty Food Group, told the farmers that Chitty's aim was to develop confidence in organic beef farming so that farmers would be prepared to invest in the sector.

He explained that the committee would be a vital part of the Organic Beef Producers Association. "We are very keen that this scheme has a committee, which will govern its day to day activities, share ideas on best practice and create a central buying scheme," he said.

Joanna King, Agricultural Manager of Tesco, told the group that Tesco was determined to buy more British beef to satisfy all its organic customers. "We want to fill all that supply with British cattle, because that's what consumers want," she said.

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