Ethical veal company expands into Tesco
Published:  13 June, 2012

Ethical rose veal company Brookfield Farm will be listed in Tesco from next week, marking an expansion for the producer which launched with online retailer Ocado in September 2011. 

The company, which was formed last year as a joint-venture between DB Foods and West Country farm Tarrant Valley Livestock, has announced an increase in it retail listing, with two products, veal stir fry and escalopes, available at 90 Tesco stores from Monday 18 June. It also announced that it will be stocked in five outlets of wholesalers Costco, while Waitrose has increased the number of stores selling the full range from 12 to 22.

The full range includes veal Osso Bucco, veal sirloin steaks, veal medallions, and veal liver as well as the best selling stir fry and escalopes.

The move marks a major expansion for the company. Whereas a year ago, it was processing 20 calves a week, this number has now risen to 75 and Ben Bayer, CEO of DB Foods, said that the company aims to increase this to at least 200 a week by this time next year. However, he said that the current challenge is sourcing more calves, and to address this, the company has set up a producer group, with dairy farmers offered contracts to rear for Brookfield Farm.

Bayer said: “This is proving very successful, this week alone 3 new farmers have signed up.”

“We commissioned our new BRC A grade red meat cutting plant/retail packing site some nine months ago. It’s a sizable building and was built with the flexibility to allow us to grow as retail expanded. New retail business in the last 3 months across the species has meant we’ve recently added another retail line, but we have capacity for more.”

However, Bayer said that retail demand is still very much in its infancy, and it will be difficult to asses the Tesco and Costco launch immediately. He said that the renaissance in veal consumption is being driven primarily by the customers of butchers, and that the bulk of the company’s veal still sold through high street and catering butchers.

He said: “It’s having that demand outside of the retailers that helps us to make the program work. Carcass balance is a huge issue. Where we succeed is to offer the supermarkets a product like Escalope’s that they want at a sensible price and without demanding they take all the other cuts.”
The veal, which is sourced from RSPCA Freedom Food accredited farms in the West Country, won a Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) Good Calf Commendation award last year, and Bayer said that the ‘winning’ of the welfare debate has helped move the agenda onto the nutritional virtues and versatility of veal.  

Bayer said: “With regard to customer awareness, enormous strides have been made this year alone. We feel programs like Countryfile & Jimmy’s Farm have obviously helped but look too at the work we’ve done with the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF). To win the Good Calf Commendation from them was a proud day in its own right as well as being a crucially pivotal moment. Up until then veal was largely seen as a welfare ‘bad news’ story - but with by taking calves from -airies who previously shot day old calves, we’ve changed this to a ‘good news’ welfare story.”

“What helped enormously in our quest to re-educate the general populace was a Countryfile episode that featured both David Tory [of Tarrant Farm Livestock] and DB’s production site. To have a senior representative of the RSPCA go on camera stating people should eat veal as a viable alternative to calves being shot at birth was a huge boost.”

Channel 4 are currently airing  pig farmer and campaigner Jimmy Doherty’s new series, Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket, in which the presenter has worked with supermarkets to transform some of their best selling products by using higher welfare meat. The first episode (29 May) persuaded Tesco to use rose veal in its meatballs to find a viable market for unwanted male calves from the dairy industry.

The UK veal market remains a niche market, with total sales of 125 tonnes, a fraction of the total market for beef and veal, at 269,291 tonnes.

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