UFU Watch: UK Beef Market - a Complex Outlet

Article excerpt

Byline: Commodity Watch

The UK prime beef market has become a complicated and bureaucratic place.

Ever since the beef export ban was imposed on the UK, and the re-focusing on the UK market for all domestically produced beef and beef products, conditions of access to this market and the number of external forces exerting pressure on the market have become more and more pronounced. UFU Livestock Secretary Ian Stevenson looks at the issues:

Access to the market has become dependant on a number of factors:- the ability to meet retail specifications, compliance with regulatory requirements, the guarantee of quality assurance and above all at a competitive price.

The specifications demanded by the multiple retailers have in recent times been driving the local beef sector towards the production of a uniform quality product, as evidenced by the concise carcase weight bands, carcase grades, dressing specifications and age profile of animals required.

These specifications have been tightening and have led to the exclusion of a significant percentage of Northern Ireland's production from the premium retail trade and to more of a dependence on cheaper market outlets.

The regulatory burden associated with producing beef animals for market has also changed markedly in recent years. There are strict regulatory criteria set at production level in relation to identification, traceability, disease surveillance, feedstuff and veterinary inputs.

There is also much additional regulation further down the food chain which can have a tremendous impact on the price received by producers at the farm gate.

At present there are a wide range of lobby groups pressing for even more regulation in the food chain covering such areas as animal welfare, food safety and environmental protection.

In addition new consumer orientated legislation such as beef labelling has created its own marketing problems for NI farmers, especially those sourcing store cattle in the Republic of Ireland for finishing in Northern Ireland.

Current marketing brands in the multiple GB retail trade (British meat and Irish meat) have been excluded from using such nomad cattle under the beef labelling legislation.

Quality Assurance in the production chain has been a controversial issue for some time now but has become a pre-requisite for trade in beef with the GB multiple retail sector. …