Friday, 27 September 2013

Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth helps EBLEX launch new beef and lamb cuts range

Having a great product like quality assured beef and lamb to offer consumers is one thing. The trick, of course, is stimulating demand and ultimately sustaining that demand in a market where time is of the essence for families looking for quick, cost-effective meal solutions. Guest blogger Laura Bishop, EBLEX marketing manager quality schemes outlines what we’re doing to serve up something different.

Families are increasingly looking for quick and cost-effective meal solutions, and traditional roasting joints aren’t always providing this. So, we’ve been researching the market, assessing retailer current offerings and suggesting ways in which they could improve their ranges.

This is where our work as the EBLEX trade marketing team plays a crucial role, creating innovative product development initiatives to bring added value Quality Standard Mark products to market.

For example, earlier this year we launched the ‘Steak Bar and ‘Chop House’ initiatives. This week saw the unveiling of ‘The Carvery’ and ‘Discover Lamb’ initiatives, with the help of Michelin-starred chef and QSM ambassador Nigel Haworth at the Churchill War Rooms in London. Guests, including key members of the trade press, were introduced to the initiatives, as well as being treated to butchery and cooking demonstrations to highlight the cuts’ value for money and eating quality.

We’ve also been busy developing a range of more cost-effective cuts that deliver improved quality and consistency for the consumer, while also stimulating sales in the category. Consumers will require cooking advice and information about some of the more unusual cuts, but with the right in store (on-pack and POS) support, we believe the new range will help bring shoppers back into the roasting category. The Churchill War Rooms event, for example highlighted how products can be made more accessible to families with innovations such as such as small roasting joints. It’s a question of tailoring the product to fast-paced modern life.

Briefing events like these play an important role in helping us spread our key messages to the widest possible audience. So, why the ‘Discover Lamb;’ and ‘The Carvery’ initiatives for the retail sector – under the theme ‘Cook-In’ – and ‘Eat Out’ for the foodservice sector? Ultimately, to address a decline in consumption of traditional roasting joints in the retail market and to satisfy the growing trend for sharing platters in the foodservice sector.

With traceability a particularly important issue at the moment, customers will increasingly be looking for assurance and origin indicators on packaging. The QSM for beef and lamb provides one of the highest levels of independently inspected quality assurance for meat in the UK. The standards contain combined guarantees of food safety, animal welfare, care for the environment and enhanced eating quality.

To find out more about the new concepts or the Quality Standard Mark Scheme, call the EBLEX Hotline: 0845 491 8787 or visit

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Managing livestock through winter

With the weather taking a distinct turn for the chillier recently, thoughts are turning towards how to manage stock through the winter.

As conserved forages are mostly now in store, calculating feed budgets are coming into sharp focus, not least to ensure adequate forage supply and avoid having to buy in feed at the last minute.

The importance of practical advice can’t be overstated and our latest Stock Briefing on Winter Feed Budgeting is an ideal illustration of this in practice. Providing a starting point to calculating a winter feed budget, the briefing highlights a key area of EBLEX’s work.

For instance, it details how much feed is required and, when formulating the rations, advises consulting an independent nutritionist is recommended and can prove good value for money. Analysing conserved forages will ensure the correct level and type of supplementation is fed to achieve optimum growth rates.

During the winter, producers are also advised to review the feed budget to ensure it is still on track, allowing changes in livestock numbers or problems with feed to be identified in time to take any necessary action. Advice also includes monitoring stock regularly by checking body condition scoring and weighing, to ensure the ration is delivering the expected performance. By reviewing calculations at the end of the winter, it will also help understand where improvements may be made for next year.

It’s all about knowledge transfer. Similarly, for sheep producers considering all grass wintering, it can increase grass utilisation and reduce feed costs, according to our livestock scientist, Poppy Frater. All-grass wintering involves sheep being managed at high stocking densities and moved frequently through electric-fenced paddocks. While it needs careful management in terms of feed budgeting, forage reserves and monitoring body condition, English producers have got on very well with it, even during last winter. For those producers considering it, now is the time to start thinking about shutting up fields.

As we’ve already said, knowledge transfer is one of the cornerstones of EBLEX’s work, to enhance the profitability and sustainability of the English beef and lamb sector. Further advice on these and other topics can be found in the Better Returns Programme section of our website

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Working hard for further export success

Ongoing export success for UK farming is ensuring that EBLEX is working hard, cultivating further opportunities in existing markets and opening doors to new ones for beef and lamb.

Since January 2010 we have been busy, opening more than 60 non-EU markets to UK beef and lamb exports, for example, which has generated more than a three-fold increase in sales of beef and sheep meat to these markets. Another highly promising beef trade mission returned from Hong Kong earlier this year.

Why export? New international trade has created a significant opportunities for producers to reap the rewards of full carcase utilisation - opening for home livestock producers in ‘fifth quarter’ products, or offal, for example. What only recently represented a £2.2 million disposal cost, for parts of the carcase that have no appeal for the domestic consumer, has been turned into a rising export earner currently worth £15.5 million in export sales. Not only this, each carcase is being much more fully utilised for an unprecedented economic return. The benefits are twofold - it makes a major contribution to reducing waste and improving sustainability.

We have a promising platform on which to build, and our efforts are showing no signs of slowing. Last week head our head of trade development, Peter Hardwick, outlined to Government the potential benefits of free trade between the EU and the United States highlighted the potential wider benefits the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could bring to the beef and lamb sector at a meeting chaired by Food and Farming Minister David Heath and Cabinet Minister Kenneth Clarke.

While the UK currently has no US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved beef plants for export, negotiations on the EU-US TTIP will include tackling differences in regulations, standards and certification, issues central to the future export of beef and lamb to the US from the UK. Any future deal could lead to potentially wider economic benefits to the sector. While there are high-value, opportunities for beef and lamb in the US market, where we estimate the potential market to be in excess of £60 million per annum, there are also wider implications of what a future agreement could bring for our trade relationships with other Third Country markets. These countries often take their lead from what the US does. Should an agreement be reached, it would allow us to enter into a process with the US authorities to secure individual plant approval for exports. A key issue to be resolved will be recognition of equivalence on plant standards. However, ongoing talks are certainly a step in the right direction.

Even with the challenges of working across different time zones, Peter is this week in China as part of our ongoing initiative to work on securing ruminant access. While it will take time, we are taking every opportunity to move this forwards. This month will also see an EBLEX export delegation visit West Africa to explore potential further export opportunities in Ghana, Benin and the Ivory Coast where anticipated population growth is likely to drive an increasing demand for protein which UK exporters can potentially capitalise on. Next week will also see Secretary of State Owen Paterson will lead a food and drink delegation to Russia, including EBLEX, to examine potential future opportunities for UK exporters.

All of this points to what we’ve already said – a lot of good work has already taken place. Nothing happens overnight, but we have a firm platform on which to build for future export growth and our continuing efforts with other industry stakeholders will continue to play a pivotal role in this.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Mediterranean diet does not mean eat less meat

Sun, sea and sustenance – the Mediterranean, or at least a Mediterranean diet, has again been held aloft as a beacon of best practice when it comes to diet and health.

This time, its health credentials have been pinpointed as playing a major role in staving off the risk of suffering diabetes, with some reports treating the Mediterranean diet of those living in Spain, Italy, France and Greece with more than a little reverence.

Of course, as the Ancient Greeks taught us themselves, where there are heroes, there are also villains. And cast as the villain of the piece this time, and not for the first time, is meat consumption.

However, the continuing inference that meat consumption in the Mediterranean diet is significantly lower than that of the UK, and therefore healthier by default, is not strictly accurate.

While the merits of Mediterranean foods, such as olive oil, fish, fruit and vegetables, are all well and good, the suggestion that people need to eat less meat to enjoy the benefits of these foods, is at best misleading. It also nods towards the assumption that the UK population at large generally overdoes it on the meat eating front, particularly compared to our European cousins.

The reality is that per capita consumption of meat in the UK is lower than most of the major western member states of the EU and, notably, France, Italy and Spain. For example, UK consumption is 84.2kg per head, below the EU average as a whole (84.8kg per head) and figures for Spain (97kg per head), Italy (90.7kg per head) and France (86.7kg per head). If nothing else, the statistics show clearly that low meat consumption is not part of a Mediterranean diet. And in a global context the UK fairs even better with significantly higher per capita consumption in the USA (120.2kg per head), Argentina (98.3kg per head) and Brazil (85.3kg per head).

Another reality is the selectively ignored positive role lean red meat can play in a balanced and healthy diet as highlighted by the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP). Indeed, as MAP suggests, British meat eaters could have the best of both worlds by cooking lean cuts of red meat with olive oil and serving with wholegrain bread and a large serving of Mediterranean vegetables.

Red meat consumption is an easy target and, the suggestion that a Mediterranean diet is healthier isn’t a new one. However, when discussing the issue, a certain amount of perspective has to be retained and the demonising of meat consumption does little to add to any constructive debate on the subject.