Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Doing it for the kids

We’ve all heard about the need to teach youngsters more about where their food comes from and how to cook it.

Encouraging youngsters to learn more about food and how to cook it hasn’t been far from the headlines in recent memory and it’s an area where EBLEX has been taking a lead.

For the last seven years, EBLEX has been blazing a trail in encouraging young people aged 11-16 to cook with beef and lamb by backing the Red Tractor beef and lamb Make it with Mince Challenge, developing recipes and cooking them from scratch.

Illustrating the wider work that EBLEX carries out, not only does it engage with and inspire young people to get hands on cooking experience, but it helps them to learn about the importance of good nutrition, quality ingredients and understanding where food comes from.

Of course, a bit of celebrity doesn’t do any harm, and the 2012 competition which launched this week for youngsters with that passion to cook and is again being fronted by top TV chef James Martin.

It’s clearly proved popular as a fun way of getting youngsters hands on experience in the kitchen, learning about quality ingredients and also having great fun.

EBLEX’s other educational work includes supporting the 5by25 campaign to help people learn to cook at least five dishes by the time they’re 25 with recipes, videos and advice to get people in the kitchen and cooking for themselves.

So, from the classroom to young adulthood, EBLEX is there every step of the way to help ensure cooking skills and knowledge of food aren’t lost.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Enhanced QSM standards are a win-win for the industry

The EBLEX Quality Standard Mark (QSM) scheme for beef and lamb, which was established to differentiate quality product at home and abroad, already sets the bar pretty high. However, recently-announced enhancements to the scheme will push those standards even higher.

The new specifications, which promote “higher standards, better returns”, will come into effect on 6 August 2012. They cover animal age, carcase classifications and maturation, which combine to guarantee eating quality, a key element of the QSM.

Launched in 2004, the QSM has since gone from strength to strength. All major multiple retailers are members of the scheme, as are many processors, wholesalers, catering butchers and approximately 1,800 independent retailers.

Since the inception of the scheme, the whole industry has raised its game in terms of meat quality. Therefore the EBLEX board has taken the decision to strengthen the specifications to ensure that QSM remains a higher quality product and consumers’ expectations on eating quality are not compromised.

From the producers’ point of view, the changes will mean that those supplying animals into QSM supply chains will potentially see a benefit in their returns, and attract better market prices. Revised blueprints for beef and lamb production have also been created, ensuring that the scheme dovetails with EBLEX knowledge transfer activity through the Better Returns Programme.

The enhanced QSM will continue to sit alongside the Red Tractor scheme for beef and lamb. The Red Tractor is also a robust assurance scheme, championing safety standards from the farm to point-of-sale, however it does not have eating quality specifications, animal age restriction or carcase specifications in its standards.

For more information about the EBLEX Quality Standard Mark scheme call the Hotline on 0845 491 8787 or visit

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Making the most of quality meat fresh from the farm

A key part EBLEX’s work is to help businesses get the best possible returns through skills and knowledge transfer.

This has recently been illustrated by the production of a new 'Direct Selling Programme' leaflet which gives an overview of all the support that is available for farm shops and other businesses involved in direct meat sales.

So, what’s so special about our Direct Selling programme? Essentially, it provides information, advice and practical meetings for businesses involved in direct meat sales covering farm shops, farmers markets and box schemes focusing on meat quality and profitability.

As highlighted above, skills and knowledge transfer is an essential part of what we do and is carried out through a programme of direct communications with businesses involved in direct meat sales combined with practical events across England. Informative literature is, of course, an important element. So, what does it cover?

Well, just about everything you need to know, including information on use of new cutting techniques to maximise the value of the carcase and range of cuts produced. It also looks at factors along the supply chain that influence quality of meat produced, guidelines on legal requirements for meat labelling and setting up a cutting room.

Additionally, the overall programme provides free promotional support, plus information on marketing opportunities and how to set up a new meat retail business from scratch.

Abattoirs and cutting plants providing a cut and pack service for farm shop retailers can also benefit from detailed butchery specifications to prepare beef and lamb boxes for sale. Advice on meat quality, marketing via recipe booklets and EBLEX Quality Scheme and design and planning services for structural developments are also available to them. For more information please contact Diane Northrop on 01480 482981 email or click here.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

15 million reasons to be cheerful

The food and farming sector’s capacity to drive the economy forward is something many of us in the industry have recognised for some time.

As with any industry though, the more help you get along the way, the better, which is why the Government’s decision to inject up to £15 million in new research and development projects and studies that will stimulate innovation and growth in the UK's food industries couldn’t be more timely.

Outlining the move, Food and Farming Minister Jim Paice cited the UK’s world class reputation for innovation and his desire to take that strength and use it to the economic advantage of the whole country.

Up to £15 million will be invested in major research and development projects to develop cutting edge ideas that increase efficiency and reduce waste in farming, food and drink production and manufacturing. This is an area familiar to EBLEX and one it has already been extensively involved in, not least with the recent publication of Down to Earth - The beef and sheep roadmap phase 3, which included a section dedicated to waste in the supply chain and on-farm efficiency.

The beef and lamb sector forms a crucial part of the economy and there are some fantastic opportunities for it to cultivate more opportunities for the export of goods and services to the wider global agri-food industry. This has been underlined by the publication of the independent Real Value of Red Meat Economic Analysis. The report concluded it is estimated that the net economic contribution of the English red meat industry is £1.67 billion and has been circulated to MPs and peers. Clearly, the issue’s importance is moving up the wider political agenda which is encouraging for the industry.

As the Minister said: “By getting businesses innovating and enhancing the UK's reputation as a world class pioneer of new production and manufacturing techniques, the food and farming sector can be a real engine for growth."