Thursday, 29 January 2015

Banging the drum for beef and lamb

An impromptu visit from the England Supporters Band helped us make some noise in France this week, showcasing beef and lamb to the French food trade at SIRHA.

They dropped by while supporting chef Adam Bennett at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competition – staged at the event – and helped drum up some more interest in what we were doing to highlight cuts of quality beef and lamb to thousands of visitors. It capped a successful week which also saw an EBLEX-backed team of butchers land the top award at the event’s butchery competition.

Drumming up interest on our stand at SIRHA

SIRHA is the largest exhibition in France, which specialises in foodservice.  Held every two years, it attracts chefs and professionals from the foodservice sector, as well as wholesalers and food retailers from across France – essentially a ‘must’ for meat operators in the country.

With France a key export market for our products, it’s a very important event for us to attend. Our butcher-shop themed stand – coordinated by RĂ©mi Fourrier and his team in the AHDB office in Fontainebleau −provided the perfect platform to showcase our innovative cuts and how best to cook them. It also gave exporters the chance to discuss potential opportunities across the Channel.

Each day, top butcher and EBLEX trade marketing executive Martin Eccles demonstrated new cuts of beef and lamb to visitors, illustrating how maximising use of the carcase can benefit the entire supply chain. The new cuts lend themselves particularly to what consumers in the French market are looking for, with flat iron steaks and mini joints, among others, featuring.

EBLEX's Martin Eccles talking through cuts with visitors

There’s nothing like tasting the product though and EBLEX foodservice project manager Hugh Judd was on hand to cook the cuts for visitors to taste throughout the week’s proceedings. And judging by the number of people flocking to the stand, it clearly hit the mark, with taste buds well and truly tantalised for the duration of the event.

Of course, there’s also an important trade message to deliver. Martin presented the French version of the Meat Purchasing Guide with images, description and identification codes for cuts, plus step-by-step instructions on how to prepare them.

All in all, SIRHA, like so many other key trade shows, provides us with the shop window to showcase our beef and lamb to the widest possible audience. Again, it proved to be a huge success with the trade and highlighted once again why we have to keep banging the drum for beef and lamb on the global stage.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Have you dialled into our BRP beef teleconference?

Last year, the EBLEX Better Returns Programme organised a series of teleconferences on beef and sheep to bring expert advice and information to the farmyard.

Rather than taking a day off to attend a conference, farmers could dial in and listen from the comfort of their armchair, office or tractor cab.
They’ve been really popular and the good news is that they’re here to stay for 2015.

If you haven’t had chance to listen to a teleconference yet, two experts each talk for 15 to 20 minutes about a particular subject and then answer the listeners’ questions. Instead of 30 people vying to talk over each other to ask a question, listeners can simply email them in and Chris, our Industry Development Manager, asks them on their behalf.

Some might say why not run a webinar, and it is a good question, but the team decided to keep it simple and avoid the problems that many experience with their broadband connectivity. Plus it means people can listen in on the move.

Last week, Debby Brown and Rhidian Jones discussed managing replacement heifers for service this spring and finishing heifers respectively.

It was a busy one with plenty of questions.

Rhidian kicked off the teleconference by talking about the system choice being dependant on the time of year and resources available, which in turn will dictate the choice of breed.
He advised listeners to set targets and monitor them regularly, by weighing stock, in order to maintain an efficient system. Understanding the cost of production is also imperative as with any system.

Rhidian reminded people that it is the larger-framed animals (continental breeds) that have faster growth rates and reach heavier weights. Traditional breeds will be slower-growing, therefore farmers need to ensure the growth phase is sufficient to get maximum potential out of them.

Next Debby provided some key considerations for farmers bringing in new stock. She very rightly said that heifers are the lifeblood of the herd and are what make the future of it. Whether they’re homebred or bought-in, they’ll bring in new genetics and improve herd productivity, so ensuring the health status of the herd is protected is important.

And she added that knowing the health status of the current herd will ensure you understand the risk of them picking anything up.

Debby also stressed the importance of timing. Allowing enough time for tests, vaccinations and also settling in is important to ensure the risk of infection is reduced and fertility is optimum in time for service.

We’ve put this teleconference and all the previous ones on to the BRP section of the website so that people can listen if they were unable to dial in.

The next teleconference will take place on Friday 23 January. Kate Phillips will be discussing compound feed selection and ration formulation for sheep and Harriet Fuller will be talking about the prevention and treatment of disease at lambing time.

Friday, 9 January 2015

£1.75 million feed efficiency project unveiled at Oxford Farming Conference

After the calm of the Christmas break, the Oxford Farming Conference, which takes place in early January each year, ensures that the agricultural year always gets off to a lively start. And with a theme of Ambitious Agriculture, this year’s event was no exception.

Defra Secretary of State Liz Truss was the opening speaker at the first full day of the conference on Wednesday. She gave a rousing address in which she gave numerous examples of the UK’s agricultural successes and stated that “we have the land, the technology, the entrepreneurial flair – and above all the fantastic food – to lead the world”.

Tying in with the Minister’s themes of technology and innovation, and providing a good example of the sort of ambitious activity she was referring to, it was also announced that EBLEX has successfully bid for a £1.75 million Defra project focusing on selective beef breeding. The research, which is the largest project EBLEX has ever undertaken in terms of cost, aims to deliver a positive effect on both the economic performance and environmental impact of UK beef production in the UK. The project has a projected increase in farm level profit of 39 per cent and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 22 per cent.

It’s fair to say that not everyone at the Oxford Farming Conference shared the Secretary of State’s optimistic outlook for the farming industry. Yesterday, the conference closed with an Oxford Union debate on a motion, proposed by Philip Lymbery of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), that intensive agriculture is no longer sustainable. Leaving aside the fact that ‘intensive agriculture’ is a term that is very difficult to define, particularly in the context of UK livestock farming, the majority of delegates favoured the view of the debate’s opposer, Caroline Drummond of Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF). Her argument that intensification didn’t mean more cows in the barn, it rather meant intensifying all aspects of agriculture to produce more to feed a growing world population, led to the motion being defeated by 269 votes to 81.

Another controversial speaker was Guardian columnist George Monbiot. A vocal critic of the industry in the past, his staunch criticism of farming, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) provoked a strong reaction from the floor, with NFU deputy president Minette Batters declaring herself “speechless” following his comments about the organisation. He also repeated his attack on the use of subsidies to support sheep farming in the uplands, describing the “sheep shagged landscapes” he believes result from this practice.

The views of George Monbiot and Philip Lymbery are unlikely to find a great deal of sympathy with an audience consisting primarily of producers and stakeholders who are actively involved in a farming system which the speakers consider to be broken. However, a truly progressive industry should be prepared to engage with critics and take part in a healthy debate which can only serve to drive the sector forward. No industry can rest on its laurels – continual improvement, through research such as the beef feed efficiency project, is essential to address the sustainability challenges which are always directed at the farming sector and provide a response to those critics.