Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Working hard to stimulate demand for beef and lamb

Among the services EBLEX provides to beef and sheep levy payers is marketing – working (often behind the scenes) to stimulate demand for quality beef and lamb. In the consumer arena, this includes our work with Red Tractor Beef and Lamb, www.simplybeefandlamb.co.uk, our meat and health, and meat and education programmes, and MeatMatters. Complementing this is our trade side marketing work with the major supermarkets, Quality Standard Mark, independent butchers, promoting new cuts from alternative butchery techniques, and supporting the foodservice sector.

It is essential we work hard on the domestic front as this is where the bulk of beef and sheep meat produced in England is sold – and with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation in the UK rising to 5.2% from 4.5% the month before, consumers are increasingly looking to where they can make food efficiencies. Beef demand certainly remains robust, with latest Kantar Worldpanel figures showing beef sales by volume up 1 per cent for the 12 weeks to October 2 and 0.2 per cent on a year earlier, but we cannot assume this will remain the case simply because people like eating it.

Therefore, the launch of the EBLEX-backed 5by25 initiative, supported by celebrity chef James Martin and a host of national organisations, was rather timely this week, bringing into sharp focus the need to help young people develop skills to create basic dishes with raw ingredients, like beef and lamb. Research commissioned by EBLEX showed that almost 60 per cent of those aged 18 to 25 cannot make a staple dish like spaghetti Bolognese. Only 6 per cent of those questioned knew how to make the three test dishes of spaghetti Bolognese, curry and Yorkshire pudding. Clearly a programme was needed to highlight the frightening shortage of cooking skills for the next generation to ensure healthy, cost effective dishes can be prepared at home from the raw ingredients.

It prompted the development of 5by25, which calls for young people to be given the support to master at least five simple recipe dishes by the age of 25 – the time by which most have left home – with a wealth of information on basic recipes on the website www.5by25.com

At a London launch this week, it had backing across the board, including the Prince’s Trust and National Union of Students, from the assembled 100 guests. The one possible exception was Further Education and Skills Minister John Hayes who discussed his doubts on the need for such a project at the event with a clearly passionate James Martin. Mr Martin went on to extol the virtues of the initiative through a series of radio and television interviews over two days, again demonstrating his support for our industry, which saw him step up to front the annual EBLEX Young Chef Challenge back in 2006, challenging children to come up with dishes featuring beef or lamb mince.

The real benefits of the project will be long term, as we (hopefully) see more people buying the basics, including beef and lamb, to create healthy dishes for themselves and for their families. The proof of the pudding, as they say, will be in the eating.