Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Highlighting opportunities in the Halal Sector for sheep meat

The Halal market adds value to the sheep market in particular and represents an increasing opportunity for the cattle sector. This week’s guest blogger, AHDB Beef and Lamb’s head of supply chain business development Dr Phil Hadley, takes a look at the opportunities presented for farmers and processors.

The Halal market presents a significant market opportunity which UK producers and processors can capitalise on, particularly when it comes to sheep meat.

The key, of course, is to fully understand the market, manage flocks carefully and keep a keen eye on the Islamic calendar to plan production accordingly, to deliver products at key times of the year to maximise the market’s full potential.

Sheep meat is a primary protein choice for Muslim consumers, and with a UK population of 2.7 million – 4.8 per cent of the total population – there is a clear market for sheep meat producers to capitalise on. The Muslim community consumes around 20 per cent of all the sheep meat sold in England, with consumption peaking around the Ramadan and Eid festivals.

It’s imperative for producers to know the market and prepare accordingly, by establishing with their outlets what plans are in place to target the Muslim market throughout the year. Ramadan, for example, falls in the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar when nothing is eaten between dawn and sunset. Food is, however, celebrated at larger social gatherings in the evenings, helping drive up demand. The Islamic calendar is lunar based and so dates move back about 10-11 days every year. This year Ramadan began on June 18. Next year it will begin on June 7, underlining why it is so important for producers to keep a close eye on the Islamic calendar and to plan production accordingly.

Similarly, the festival of Eid-al-Ahda – is held approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan, where it is incumbent upon every Muslim to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet Abraham and have an animal slaughtered as an offering to God. Called the Qurbani, meat is received in three portions – one for the person buying, one for friends and neighbours and one for charity, again helping drive a spike in demand. During this period the community looks for mature animals aged six months or older that are fit, healthy and lean.

We’re often asked what AHDB Beef and Lamb does to help the sector. In short, we’re doing more all the time. We have produced a number of resources to help the industry harness the potential of the Halal market. Our
Halal Meat Facts booklet, for example, outlines key statistics and the opportunities presented by the sector in the UK and in export markets. Other resources include our halal cuts posters and the Lamb Cutting Guide for the Halal market, developed as a training tool and to provide a single comprehensive specification to ensure consistency throughout the Halal industry. Our Halal seminar earlier this year provided a platform for the industry to discuss opportunities and challenges facing the sector.

AHDB Beef and Lamb is also currently working on several other projects to highlight the potential the Halal market offers which we hope to unveil later this summer. As I’ve said, UK sheep producers are ideally placed to reap the rewards offered by the Halal sector. One of AHDB Beef and Lamb’s aims will be to continue to be working with industry to help ensure it harnesses the potential of this sector to its fullest.

Further information on Halal can be found in the Halal section of the AHDB Beef and Lamb Trade website and the Corporate Publications section of the AHDB Beef and Lamb website

Thursday, 18 June 2015

A vision for the future of the beef and lamb sector

Stuart Roberts took over from John Cross as chairman of AHDB Beef and Lamb on April 1. Last month, Stuart spoke to Sheep Farmer about his aspirations for the sector. This blog is adapted from that interview. 

I do not need to point out that most of my background is firmly in the arable and beef sectors. That is why it is so important to work closely with levy payers. I want to be held to account.

In terms of levy investment priorities, research and development (R&D) and knowledge transfer (KT) are up there. These should not be seen as separate things. We do some fantastic work, but if we do not do even better work on the knowledge transfer element, our competitors overseas will pinch what we have done on R&D and use it to benefit their industry. If we are not communicating the messages effectively, we might as well not do the R&D in the first place.

The second important area is market intelligence (MI). There should be nowhere else in the industry that anyone is going to for better intelligence on the sheep or beef markets. Lots of people can collect data. The important part is how you then analyse that, interpret it and add intelligence to it.

Then there is market access work, which we cannot underplay. I would love to be able to say, at the end of my term, that we have displaced other countries’ lamb in China, for instance. Once we get market access, it is relatively easy, in my opinion, to exploit these opportunities. We have the quality product that can beat competing countries hands down. We need to keep working on that market access though because it will not be easy or quick.

On another note, the myths put out about our proteins are incredible. People talk about the carbon footprint of the animals all the time. The reality is what we are doing is feeding a rumen. This biological miracle, which no human has yet developed, is something we need to shout more about. Sheep and cattle are the most fantastically efficient animals at turning cellulose into a high-quality protein digestible by humans. We cannot do enough work in this area to promote this story about our English production systems.

I believe that we need to be better at showing the value for money we are giving and that we are being efficient. We cannot expect others to do it if we are not doing it ourselves. We should be proud of the things we do. Increasing efficiency is not something that is going to happen overnight, but if we are not positive about the industry, how can we expect anyone else to be?

What we are ultimately about is providing farmers with the tools that allow them to make the most of the opportunities available to them. We can learn from others and work more closely with organisations like the NSA, vet practices, breed societies and others in the supply chain to get those key messages out there to help deliver maximum returns for levy payers.

For an overview of Stuart’s views on the industry and AHDB Beef and Lamb’s place in it, watch our video here.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

EBLEX becomes AHDB Beef and Lamb

It’s been a busy few weeks for communications teams across AHDB as the organisation prepared to move from individual sector brands (EBLEX for beef and lamb, BPEX for pigs etc) to new identities which better reflect the fact that we’re all part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

Our new AHDB sector names and logos were officially launched at the Cereals Event today (June 10) by AHDB chairman Peter Kendall and chief executive Jane King, who were joined on the AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds stand by Farming Minister George Eustice.

In addition to EBLEX’s rebrand as AHDB Beef and Lamb, the move means BPEX has become AHDB Pork, HDC has become AHDB Horticulture, DairyCo has become AHDB Dairy, HGCA has become AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds, and Potato Council has become AHDB Potatoes. Each of the sectors has a new collective logo in existing sector colours.

Our website has been moved to to reflect the changes and our social media channels have been updated. The new branding will start appearing at shows and in publications over the coming weeks and months.

The feedback on the new branding seems to have been broadly positive so far, however we’re aware that it’s going to take a while to build awareness of the changes. We’ll therefore be doing everything we can to communicate the new name and logo to levy payers and other stakeholders.

Our aim is to keep it as simple as possible for those we communicate with, so anyone visiting our old website ( will be redirected to the new one and existing subscriptions and social media connections will be updated automatically.

You will still see the old EBLEX brand around for some time, as in order to ensure costs are kept to a minimum, existing stocks of our various resources will be run down over the next few months before being replaced.

The change won’t affect sub-brands such as the Better Returns Programme, which will continue to be the identity we use for all our knowledge transfer work. Our assurance scheme for beef and lamb, the Quality Standard Mark, will also remain unchanged. In addition, all of our consumer marketing work will continue to appear under the Simply Beef and Lamb banner.

If you’re keen to see the new AHDB Beef and Lamb brand in action, you will have the opportunity to do so at the Livestock Event on 8 and 9 July, where we will be sharing a stand with our dairy colleagues, as welll as at plenty of other events over the coming months.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Understanding the potential of the Japanese market for beef and lamb exports

To fully understand a market, there’s no substitute for immersing yourself in it. This week, guest blogger Jonathan Eckley, from the EBLEX export team, gives an insight into some of the work he’s been doing in the Far East to help UK exporters.

We’re all aware of the potential opportunities for beef and lamb exports in markets in the Far East. While securing access to markets like China and Japan is a long-term ambition for us, there’s no time like the present to try and fully understand what these markets demand and to start establish relationships with key players in the supply chain.

I recently returned from a three-day red meat mission to Japan and one aspect that struck me other than the attention to detail given to everything was the economic statistics underpinning the market potential. While we don’t yet have market access for beef and lamb in Japan, it was something that stood out.

Nearly 23 per cent of household expenditure goes towards food, according to the Japanese Statistics Bureau. Japanese meat consumption is also highly dependent on imported product. Beef consumption in 2014 was 859,000 tonnes, with beef imports at 519,000 tonnes – that’s around 60 per cent of total consumption. Of those beef imports, 58 per cent were frozen, boneless product, with fresh, boneless cuts largely making up the remainder.

The potential opportunities are clear to see and represent significant potential for our exports. As I say, while we do not yet have market access secured, the best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today. The trip formed part of a wider visit to the Far East where we also took part in two major food shows in China and Hong Kong, again showcasing UK product.

In Japan, working with the UK embassy and local UKTI food sector advisors, we organised a complete in-market experience for a group of exporters to help identify the key players in the Japanese red meat supply chain.

It included retailer visits, as well as a visit to a cutting plant which was supplying the food service sector. Our exporters gained a great understanding of the market which is precisely what these missions aim to achieve. We also organised an industry seminar for leading importers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers to highlight what UK production systems have to offer. Not only did the programme provide an ideal initial networking opportunity, but it helped lay the foundations on which any future business can hopefully flourish.

The wider role that exporting has to play in helping the UK economic revival remains high on the agenda. While there remains a lot of work to be done to secure access to these markets, the long-term benefits are, potentially, immense. That’s why it’s imperative for us to continue doing the groundwork now, to understand requirements as fully as possible and put ourselves in the strongest possible position to capitalise in the future.