UK beef producers missing French opportunity, says AHDB

UK producers are failing to grasp the opportunity presented by cow beef in the French market, according to the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB) Remi Fourrier.

Fourrier, who heads up AHDB in France, said that prior to the beef ban in the mid-1990s, the UK used to export considerable quantities of cow beef to France, and while the UK has worked hard to rebuild its prime beef exports into the European market, cow beef remained a neglected area.

“Before the ban we used to export around 50,000t of cow beef to the French and it was ideal for their market – dark in colour and so on – but we’ve lost that completely, and we’ve not rebuilt it.

“Within the British slaughter sector, they keep what they want for mince and the remainder is sent to the Netherlands or to Ireland, and who benefits from the added value?” He said the UK had effectively exported the trade to rival operators in those countries, who were now benefiting from supplying cow beef into the French market.

He added that the UK needed to regain the efficiency within the cutting sector, something the Netherlands was now expert at and would present a challenge to compete against. “However, I see companies like Pickstocks investing in cutting plants, and I think there are companies out there that will be able to take on that challenge. There’s real potential.”

Speaking during the Sial trade show in Paris, Fourrier said there was still an opportunity for UK growth in the French market with support from Eblex’s Quality Assurance mark.

He said that a recent deal with online special offer business Vente Privée would see a range of Eblex Quality Assured beef and lamb, all in innovative skin packs, being offered to over four million French consumers.

The company runs a subscription-based service, which could offer five lamb lines and three beef products under the St George brand for a period of two weeks. “They promote the product to members for two weeks, and ask if they are interested. Then, at the end of that period, they will tell the suppliers what they need. It could be quite big, but we’ve never done anything like this before.”

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