Wednesday, 24 September 2014

New campaigns aimed at getting people to eat more beef and lamb

It’s been a good year for spring lamb. Thanks to a mild winter in 2013, producers have seen a good crop of lambs which have been coming through to market over the last month and are expected to reach market peak over the next few weeks. 

This is good news for consumers who are seeing high quality product on the shelf, giving good value for money. To help make sure shoppers are making the best of these conditions, EBLEX has launched a new TV ad campaign to promote the midweek mini roast – with the tag line: ‘Why wait ‘til Sunday?’

The first ad was broadcast yesterday on ITV1, and it will continue to air across the nation over the coming six weeks. The humorous adverts are scripted to strike a chord with families and couples, and leave a lasting impression on viewers.

And it’s not just mainstream television that is carrying the mini roast message, as the campaign is set to give the digital world a good roasting too! Renowned chef
Andy Bates has filmed four quick and easy mini roast recipe videos which will be used in a digital advertising campaign and on the Simply Beef and Lamb website.

So, as well as encouraging the good people of this nation to buy English beef and lamb, we’re helping to ensure they have the inspiration and knowledge to give mini roasts a go and make their midweeks a bit more exciting during the autumn and winter months.

Anyone that misses the TV or digital campaign may still find themselves tempted by a mini roast when they visit their local butchers, thanks to a
bumper point-of-sale kit which is being sent from EBLEX to all Quality Standard Mark (QSM) member butchers. The kits are designed to promote QSM beef and lamb in store, and market the ‘carvery’ range of mini roast cuts to customers.

For those who prefer to try their own hand at butchery, EBLEX trade marketing executive and butcher, Martin Eccles, has demonstrated how you can create no less than five mini roasts from a single leg of lamb on our video channel, EBLEX TV.

Running parallel with the midweek mini roast campaign is a separate one aimed at getting students to experiment with lamb. Known as LambSoc, this campaign is aimed at developing an online community of 18 to 25-year-olds, creating videos with popular YouTubers, based on EBLEX’s initial
lamb keema recipe.

It will also encourage students to post videos and photos of their efforts and share content to spread the word. It is aiming to achieve 20,000 likes on Facebook and 500,000 video views across all channels by next April.

LambSoc is set up in the style of a society that students might join at their unions and has already attracted nearly 4,000 people to the community through online channels such as
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

In recent years, lamb has been seen as a luxury meat in the UK, but the aim now is to highlight its availability and versatility. The co-ordinated EBLEX campaigns are aimed squarely at getting it, along with high-quality beef, on more dinner plates more often, over the coming months.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Guest blog: The science of grass

For this week’s offering we’ve invited EBLEX beef and sheep scientist, Poppy Frater, to scribe a guest blog about her recent visit to the European Grassland Federation (EGF) conference:

The latest in grassland research was showcased at a recent European Grassland Federation (EGF) conference held at Aberystwyth University this year. EGF is a forum for research workers, advisors, teachers, farmers and policy makers linked by a common interest in European grasslands. We know that the opportunity to attend such conferences is limited for many farmers. So we do our best to transfer the latest scientific findings to the farming community through webinars, videos and Grazing Club articles.

The conference covered an array of subjects, but if I was to pick out some particular areas of interest it would be sward diversity, forage combinations and soil biology.

Several presentations highlighted the latest findings on the impacts and optimisation of diverse swards. What did we find out? Combining characteristics for nitrogen-fixing and non-nitrogen-fixing and deep-rooting and shallow-rooting (e.g. perennial ryegrass, tall fescue or chicory, red and white clover) can result in a grass sward that is productive, resilient and persistent under low nitrogen inputs, but the management is key. 

Different forage combinations can complement each other to maximise intake and digestion in sheep. Researchers found 50:50 ratios in the following combinations: 1) cocksfoot and red clover (silages) and: 2) grazed ryegrass-chicory swards, optimised intake and digestibility. They presume the mixtures encouraged intake. 
The impact of how forages affect soil biology was evident in another experiment. They found greater numbers of worms in white clover plots than ryegrass (with zero nitrogen or 200kg nitrogen per hectare), chicory and red clover plots. This will improve soil infiltration and organic matter breakdown - further adding to the benefits of white clover use. 

Spending time among some of the top grassland scientists at the conference was really useful to stay in tune with the latest findings. This is important for EBLEX research and development as it helps us to keep up-to-date with the latest research, which in turn will ensure future EBLEX-funded projects build on current research rather than duplicate it, and also means we can continually strive to deliver the best advice to farmers based on the latest research. 

The farming industry is at the centre of EBLEX activity, and events such as the EGF conference are key in ensuring that our scientific work continues to help drive the sector forwards.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Hong Kong show highlights beef and lamb on global scale

It’s no secret that non-EU markets are becoming increasingly important for beef and lamb exports and we are making inroads in these areas.

For example, more than 65 markets are now open for beef and 74 markets for sheep meat outside the EU as a result of EBLEX/AHDB working with government.

And the figures are encouraging. Beef exports – muscle meat as opposed to fifth quarter – have recovered well, hitting the 105,000 tonnes mark in 2013. Sheep meat exports have performed very strongly with a 19 per cent increase in total exports between 2006 and 2013.

These have been driven almost entirely by the increase in non-EU exports which have risen from less than one per cent to more than 17 per cent of total exports. Indeed, most of these gains have taken place over the last two years, over which time non-EU exports have increased by 200 per cent with key markets in the Far East and West Africa.

It’s imperative then, to showcase what we have to offer the world. After all, you’re not going to help stimulate demand in a global market without telling anyone about it. Our exports and events team play a vital role in ensuring we have a presence at key trade shows around the world to tell key players in existing and potential new markets about the full range of products from frozen commodities to premium beef and lamb.

Earlier this month, for example, EBLEX and BPEX participated for the second time in the Restaurant & Bar Show in Hong Kong, the leading fine dining and bar exhibition in Asia-Pacific. With its focus very much on the top-quality food service and the bar market showcasing premium beef and lamb.
Delegates at the show
The busy show, dedicated to the Hong Kong food service sector, attracted more than 18,000 visitors. Chefs and food buyers were invited to taste premium beef and lamb and able to compare our product against competing top-end products present on the demanding local market. It’s all about taste and some of the best produce from all over the world was on offer in Hong Kong.
Jo Hawley, UKTI Director of Trade and Investment for Hong Kong (centre) and EBLEX Export Manager jean-Pierre Garnier in discussion with delegates at the show
In addition, EBLEX held a beef seminar during the event on September 5 which was attended by 55 chefs and press, the highlight being five beef dishes presented by Michelin-starred chef Jeremy Biasiol there’s nothing quite like consumers in new potential new markets sampling our produce to help underpin our export work.

Export volumes to this region are certainly heading in the right direction but competition is fierce. The more we can do to build on what we have developed so far, the better, and participating in events like the Restaurant & Bar Show in Hong Kong will continue to play a crucial role in our continued export success.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Telling the world about our beef and lamb production

The role of the communications team at EBLEX is wide-ranging and varied. Whether it is collating a news release to go to the farming press, co-ordinating radio or television interviews, responding to the latest sensational newspaper headline about red meat production or consumption, or updating our social media channels, it ensures there is never a dull day.

We do this for a number of reasons, as set out in our communications strategy. These include ensuring levy payers are aware of how we are spending money, communicating new ideas to producers, consolidating our position as a knowledge house for the industry or making market information and analysis readily available to help producers and processors make informed business decisions.

More often than not, this targeting a domestic audience of levy payers and other industry stakeholders, but this week the focus was (briefly) further afield. A group of more than 50 reporters from across the globe are currently taking part in the International Federation Agricultural Journalists (IFAG) pre-congress tour. This was ahead of their main 2014 congress – Innovations from a Small Island – which starts in Scotland tomorrow. There is also then a post-congress tour. Across the piece, visiting journalists will have had the chance to experience the best of British agriculture and learn a lot more about our industry to inform articles they write when they go home. That can only be good to further enhance the reputation of our industry abroad and complements the hard work our trade development team do in new markets for our English beef and lamb exports around the world.

So it was that at 7am on Tuesday morning,  we were at Smithfield Market in London, speaking to a captive audience of international journalists about the work EBLEX does, the beef and lamb our farmers produce, the work of the processors and the shared challenges our industries have wherever you are on the planet (red meat and health, red mean and carbon emissions etc).

It was a necessarily brief audience because of a busy schedule, nestled between morning coffee and breakfast, before we embarked upon a tour of the market – but it was well worth it.

After this, the actual tour of Smithfield fascinated the visitors and gave us a chance to engage further with a smaller selection of the group, answering questions on everything from perception of meat imported from their countries, to the structure of the processing sector, meat quality systems and the popularity of cuts from different breeds.

We know that beef and lamb produced in our rain-fed pasture systems is popular across the world because of its quality and taste (notwithstanding comments this week from the US Ambassador who clearly has no idea when he is being spoiled!). Being able to put more meat on the bones for visitors in terms of its production, who can then impart that back to their own readership, can only strengthen our brand.

We wish the conference well and hope all involved from our industry will take the opportunity to shine the light on the good practice and quality product that is linked to this “small island”.