Thursday, 30 October 2014

Breeders’ survey launched to add value to beef and sheep industry

To help farmers get the best possible return from their business, EBLEX operates a number of knowledge-transfer projects which allow us to share best practice with them.

These initiatives go through various stages, but most start life with our research and development (R&D) team and are born out of the need for a solution to an emerging problem.

In order to accumulate the information that we use for these projects, we need to engage with people from throughout the supply chain, and our latest hunt for information, which is currently in the R&D stage, is aimed at beef and sheep breeders.

As part of a national genetic improvement survey, EBLEX has commissioned a 20 minute online questionnaire which is designed to help evaluate the impact of breed improvement on the UK beef and sheep industries.

Genetic improvement has an important role in the industry, a message which EBLEX is keen for producers to listen to. The questionnaire which has been commissioned forms part of a wider review into the way in which resources are used in this area. The benefits to the industry of genetic improvement were last estimated in 2006/07 and since then there has been an increase in emerging technologies.

Therefore the review aims to assess whether or not the current allocation of resources is the most appropriate, and also explore different models that may offer better delivery of breed improvement in the future. Other goals include quantifying the financial benefits of genetic improvement in the sector, reviewing the delivery of breed improvement services and identifying opportunities to improve uptake.
Since the questionnaire went live three days ago (Monday, 27th October), 72 breeders have responded. This is a positive start and hopefully means there will continue to be a high response rate. Of course, online surveys like this are always affected by the usual challenges that poor internet connection in rural areas present, and so alternative plans are in place.

Anyone signed up to Signet Breeding Services, the part of EBLEX which provides genetic evaluations to livestock producers to help them identify sheep and cattle with superior breeding potential, will receive a paper version of the questionnaire in the post soon, and for those that aren’t signed up, a PDF version is available to print off, complete and return.

It is important that as many breeders as possible take part in the survey so that the findings are well informed when they are calculated and fed back into the industry to help the beef and sheep meat supply chain to become more efficient.

The questionnaire will be online until November 28th this year, and once collated the results will be used to deliver change to the industry at the earliest opportunity.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

EBLEX at SIAL to wave the flag for Quality Standard Mark beef and lamb from England

Over the past week, one of the biggest food trade fairs in the world took place in Paris, and EBLEX was there to make sure that visitors from across the globe were hearing about high quality beef and lamb from England.

SIAL is a major agri-food event which hosts 6,300 exhibitors and welcomes 150,000 high profile visitors, and is held at the Parc des Expositions just outside the French capital. The EBLEX stand was designed in the theme of a traditional English pub, and served as a meeting platform for the meat industry to greet and do business with new and existing customers, and sample some Quality Standard Mark (QSM) beef and lamb of course.

Remi Fourrier, EBLEX’s French export manager, said that providing this hospitality for exporters was vital: “Some of these guys that do business together only meet once a year in Paris here at SIAL, or at the other huge trade fair, Anuga, in Cologne. A lot of business is consolidated and developed at these shows and it is massively important that EBLEX has a presence.”

The stand also showcased some of the new products and packaging available to French consumers, cutting manuals to share expertise and a demonstration of a tablet and smartphone app which demonstrates all carcase cuts, including the lesser-utilised fifth quarter. During the show, which launched on Sunday, 19th October and finishes today (Thursday, 23rd October), the Defra Secretary of State, Liz Truss, visited the EBLEX stand to talk to exporters as part of a whistle-stop tour of the show. She took the opportunity to meet with members of the UK trade press and answer their questions.

Other news from SIAL included an announcement, made on the EBLEX stand on Monday, which lamb producers will be pleased to hear about. In a bid to encourage more people across six European countries to cook with lamb, a €7.7million campaign is set to be launched thanks to a co-promotion deal that we have secured along with the EU, Ireland and France.

The three-year programme will see an annual investment of €1.5m (£1.19m) from EBLEX, Board Bia and Interbev matched by the EU, across England, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany and Denmark – all markets which have been identified as having significant potential.

The announcement at SIAL is timely. As the message about eating lamb is rolled out, the seeds of business that were planted at SIAL will begin to grow.  When Anuga takes place in Germany in October 2015, EBLEX will be there once again to share expert knowledge and give a platform to exporters from England, so that their produce continues to have a huge presence on the world stage.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Reviewing how we spend your levy money

Making levy payers aware of the full breadth of activity that EBLEX does to benefit the beef and sheep industry is one of the most difficult jobs faced by our communications team.

There are an estimated 60,000 beef and sheep producers spread around England, including many in remote upland areas. All of them work long hours and are field-based in the most literal sense of the word, which can make communicating with them a challenge.

Nearly 50 per cent of those 60,000 are signed up to the Better Returns Programme (BRP), our skills and knowledge transfer initiative through which we run events and provide practical information to help beef and sheep farmers identify where they can make business improvements .

Even these producers who are more switched on to EBLEX are unlikely to be aware of everything we do. Our consumer marketing activity, for example, is designed to target groups such as mothers, who are still responsible for most of the cooking and grocery shopping, and students, the next generation of beef and lamb consumers. And our work on the export front necessarily takes place far away from England’s green and pleasant land, in places as diverse and far flung as Inner Mongolia and the Ivory Coast.

However, as EBLEX is responsible for investing over £15 million of levy income to the benefit of the industry, we have a duty to do as much as we can to communicate what we’re doing to as many English beef and sheep farmers as possible. For the more financially-minded, this information is contained in the AHDB Annual Review and Accounts. However, we appreciate that most busy farmers don’t have the time to plough through a necessarily-weighty document and for this reason we produce an annual review, which gives a snapshot of our key achievements over the previous financial year.

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This publication gives some context to the numbers, providing an insight into the range of activities we undertake on behalf of levy payers and also an idea of the return on investment our work generates. For example, the £432,000 we invested in our ongoing campaign to open additional non-EU markets to UK beef and lamb is a significant sum, however hopefully the £9.4 million increase in the value of non-EU sheep meat exports in 2013 amply demonstrates the value of that work.

The report also illustrates the value of some of our development work, such as the £67m potential growth in annual lamb retail sales and £11.3m potential growth in annual beef retail sales as a result of the £55,000 invested by our trade marketing team in producing new cuts to meet consumer demand in both retail and foodservice.

We aren’t relying on the annual review alone to communicate this information. Our team also have thousands of interactions with farmers around the country each year, but hopefully those who do read it find it a useful guide to how their levy money is being spent each year.

Copies of the annual review will be sent to all members of the EBLEX BRP with the autumn bulletin. A pdf is available on our website, or additional hard copies can be requested by calling 0870 242 1394.