Industry needs to promote beef and lamb, says NFU deputy president

The red meat industry ought to do more to promote and market its products, said Minette Batters. 

Speaking at the National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU) Northern Beef and Lamb Conference on Tuesday 12 February, the NFU’s deputy president said the branding of beef and lamb was “fundamental to maintain and build our future”.

“I would add that there has never been a more important time to promote British Red Tractor (RT) meat,” said Batters. To ensure the industry has a say in the future of the business, she urged AHDB Beef & Lamb’s levy payers to make their voices heard before the AHDB Business Plan consultation closes this week (Wednesday 13 January). To make sure NFU members feel they are getting value for money from their levy investment, it was revealed that the organisation will be meeting regularly with the levy board within the next few months.

It was also highlighted that beef and lamb producers ought to learn from the poultry industry in order to progress further. “Poultry has recognised that differentiating the product has been key to their growth and success,” she said. “From broiler, free-range, corn-fed to organic, they’ve given the consumer choice. A chance to pay for quality and eating experience but also, at the other end of the scale, a chance to purchase a quality, affordable product. For far too long we have allowed beef and lamb to be commoditised by some processors and retailers. Beef is beef – lamb is lamb.”

It was mentioned that chicken producers had an advantage over their beef and lamb counterparts in regards to the time it takes to produce a product. “Wherever possible we need to be looking at adding value to our meat. They are a premium, slow-maturing, quality protein – you can finish a chicken in 36 days, and therein lies the problem.”

Batters, who has had 30 years in the catering business, commented that Britain should look at how Australia promotes grass-fed beef and lamb and exports it to the other side of the world. “Why are we not mentioning our potentially greatest crop – grass?” she asked. “It is a source of endless frustration for me when we see NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and pressure groups using statistics from other countries to criticise the UK’s production system.”

During her address, Batters commended Ladies in Beef (LiB) for highlighting concerns within the industry. “As the co-founder of Ladies in Beef I applaud the work that Jilly Greed and the LiB team are doing in raising the profile of our shrinking suckler herds and utilising the brilliant piece of work that was done by the then Eblex about a landscape without livestock.”

She finished her speech by warning the British beef and lamb industry that it was in danger of falling behind Ireland, its biggest competitor. Batters said the Irish industry capitalised on its ability to produce food with a green and sustainable ethos. Britain, she said, had the potential to benefit from the Red Tractor (RT) logo. However, producers were not shouting about this loud enough.

“We need to be ensuring that British beef and lamb producers become the preferred supplier of choice for retail, food service and export,” she concluded. “We cannot have the Red Tractor brand supporting product born and partly reared elsewhere to carry the RT Union Jack logo on-pack. Wherever UKTI [UK Trade and Investment] are in the world they need to be championing British Food, they need to be maintaining existing markets and opening up new ones.” 

The below video comes from Love Free Range:

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