Wednesday, 25 November 2015

French embassy hosts QSM beef and lamb at restaurant guide launch

You could be forgiven for thinking that the food of choice for international ambassadors is a certain gold-wrapped chocolate treat, but at the French embassy in London this week it was Quality Standard Mark (QSM) beef and lamb that was spoiling distinguished guests.

The event in question was the launch of the Lebey Guide, a new book which lists the top 100 bistros in Paris and the top 100 gastro pubs in London, which took place in the ornate setting of the French embassy in London’s Kensington Gardens. AHDB Beef & Lamb was present to showcase home-grown produce and encourage guests, made up of chefs, restaurateurs, dignitaries and food journalists, to appreciate the virtues of using QSM beef and lamb.

The publication is the first time that a guide lists the best bistros in Paris and London and is printed in both French and English and, importantly, it focuses on meat. Aimed at foodies that reside in the two cities, the Lebey Guide presents a prize opportunity to inform the readership about the factors that make high quality beef and lamb reared on home soil such a premium product.

Of course many French people already enjoy our meat, given that one in five lambs produced in the UK is exported across the channel. But, by being featured in the Lebey Guide, the produce is being placed alongside some of the two countries’ finest dining establishments and chefs, reaffirming its premium reputation.

At the launch on Monday, AHDB’s foodservice project manager, Hugh Judd, prepared and carved cannons of beef sirloin and cannons of lamb for guests to sample. The meat disappeared almost as fast as it was presented, with many chefs and restaurateurs from both sides of the Channel keen to find out more about its provenance. 

Some of those in attendance were familiar with the work of AHDB Beef & Lamb, such as Pierre-Yves Chupin, director of the Lebey Guide who took part in one of our recent Rosbifs visits to the north of England, as mentioned in last week’s blog.
Pierre-Yves Chupin (second left) and Hugh Judd (right) present the winners of the best Paris and London bistros.
The event was opened by French Ambassador Sylvie Bermann, who praised the mutual appreciation of fine dining in both London and Paris and the quality of foodservice from all of the establishments included in the guide.

There was also recognition of the way in which the two nations had stood side-by-side in the face of the recent atrocities in Paris. Ambassador Bermann highlighted the defiant spirit shown by Parisian diners who were using the hashtag #JeSuisEnTerrasse – which translates as ‘I’m sitting outside’.
Ambassador Sylvie Bermann
The establishments shortlisted in the Lebey Guide were all reviewed incognito by a panel of critics who visited unannounced and paid for their own meal to ensure the process was objective. The consensus was that many hidden culinary gems were uncovered, and the hope is that many of them who don’t already offer QSM beef and lamb will put it on their menu going forwards.

Hopefully, those of you dining out in London or Paris in the future will find yourself tucking into homegrown beef or lamb prepared by some of the best chefs in the two cities as a result of the Lebey Guide. C'est magnifique!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Grassroots approach to putting beef and lamb on the global menu

The AHDB Beef & Lamb export team plays a vital role in getting quality assured beef and lamb on to supermarket shelves and restaurant menus all around the world.

While much of this is done through export missions, which rely on gruelling rounds of trade shows and business meetings to showcase our products, there is another, very different side to this work.
Back here on English soil, our export team, working together with our regional managers, regularly welcome groups of opinion formers from our target markets who have the opportunity to see English beef and sheep production at first hand.

One recent such visit involved a group of 10 influential French journalists, who took part in a Rosbifs Club trip to the North East of England. The select club, which has been cultivated by AHDB Beef & Lamb’s French Export Manager Rémi Fourrier, is made up chefs, butchers, journalists and other industry professionals who are united in their interest in English beef.

Building up French trust in English beef post-BSE has been no mean feat and the Rosbifs Club has been an important part of this strategy. The fact that 10 journalists, between them covering food, agriculture and the meat supply chain, chose to take time out of their busy schedules to spend two days touring the north of England is testament to the work done by Rémi and his team.

During their trip, the group had the opportunity to experience the full supply chain, including an access-all-areas visit to Dovecote Park, who supply British beef, veal and venison to Waitrose supermarkets nationwide. They also spent time at two farms, learning more about the Stabiliser Cattle Company’s industry-leading feed efficiency project and meeting Mike Powley’s South Devon herd on his family farm in Yorkshire.

The Rosbifs Club visit was followed in quick succession by an inbound mission of Polish chefs and journalists, including one of Poland’s most famous TV chefs, Karol Okrasa. The trip, which was organised by the British Polish Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with our export team, focused on lamb production in the South West of England. Lamb has essentially become a forgotten meat in Poland however, the increasing wealth of the Polish population, combined with their desire to travel and have new experiences, could translate into significant opportunities for our sheep meat exports.

Polish TV chef Karol Okrasa filming for his show
Karol, whose popular television show is usually shot entirely in Poland, brought his film crew with him. He interviewed sheep farmer Dan Newman and a butcher from DB Foods to get their insights into English lamb production, as well as getting some fantastic footage of Dorset’s rolling countryside. The chefs, who had been hand-picked to join him on the trip, enjoyed a butchery demonstration and had the opportunity to cook up a dish using locally produced lamb and seasonal vegetables, a challenge which they embraced with enthusiasm!

While these two visits were very different, their purpose was very similar. Both groups returned to their home countries having had a great experience and having gained a unique insight into our beef and sheep production systems. As influential people within their own field, they will spread the word about what they have learnt and play an important role by acting as advocates for our products. The value of this positive word of mouth can’t be over-estimated.

It goes without saying that in order for these visits to be effective, we’re entirely reliant on ambassadors from across the industry. Without passionate and knowledgeable farmers, butchers, chefs and other industry experts, this type of activity simply wouldn’t be possible.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

New industry bovine TB resources launched

It is no understatement to say that bovine TB has a devastating impact on England’s beef and dairy farmers and their communities. Between January and August 2015, 22,648 cattle were compulsorily slaughtered due to the disease in Great Britain, making it one of the biggest challenges facing the industry, both in financial and emotional terms.

While there is no one single measure that can act as a panacea for this distressing disease, there are plenty of practical actions that farmers can take to protect themselves and their neighbours from bovine TB as much as possible.

Defra Farming Minister George Eustice speaking at the launch
It is these simple steps that are the focus of a new, cross-industry TB biosecurity plan, launched by Defra Minister George Eustice at an event at Hartpury College, in Gloucestershire, today. Compiled with input from experts and vets, the Bovine TB Biosecurity Five Point Plan sets out recommendations to improve disease prevention on farm and in the cattle trade. Behind the five simple actions is a guidance document which provides detailed information on the biosecurity risks and how to reduce them, agreed by AHDB, the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA), the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Landex and the National Farmers Union (NFU).

The plan is one of the key features of a new online TB hub, which has been designed to provide a ‘go-to’ place for British beef and dairy farmers looking for answers to any questions they may have related to bovine TB. The website,, which was developed by AHDB with input from a number of other industry organisations, includes advice and links to further information, covering everything from biosecurity to trading rules.

The path to eradicating bovine TB from England is a long and difficult one. In July 2013, Defra launched a strategy to make England TB free within 25 years. The plan launched today by George Eustice, who has personal experience of dealing with bovine TB on his own farm, marks another step in the right direction.

As the Minister said in his speech: “I encourage all cattle farmers to visit the new TB hub and think about the actions they could take to make a difference to improving the security of their herd - with outbreaks often costing thousands of pounds, it makes sense to take action now.” has been developed by AHDB with input from APHA, BCVA, Defra, Landex and the NFU.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Outlook for beef and lamb in focus at conference

This week saw the AHDB Beef & Lamb Conference examine global opportunities and challenges facing the sector.

Opened by AHDB Chairman Peter Kendall, the impact of farmgate prices and challenges such as the recent International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report linking red and processed meat with cancer, were acknowledged. Importantly, AHDB’s role in meeting and often rebutting such challenges was highlighted.

AHDB Chairman Peter Kendall

Defending the industry is important to acknowledge. Equally as important, however, Peter referenced the many proactive positives, like our work on exports, the domestic Halal market, new cuts development and our Better Returns Programme (BRP), stressing the need to make the most of emerging opportunities to benefit the sector as a whole.

Coming back to the point about the industry meeting external challenges, the presentation by Professor Michael Lee made for encouraging listening. Concluding that ruminant production has a vital role to play in global food security, he also said that grazing systems can supply a high-value product, while delivering an environmental need, something we’ve highlighted previously in our
Landscapes without Livestock report. He also raised a point that we have often said before that ruminants convert feed not suitable for human consumption into food that is suitable for a growing population. 

Another key area touched on at the conference was exports. Stan Phillips, Agriculture Councillor at the US Embassy, gave an insight into the future for US/EU trade for beef and lamb. He outlined how sheep meat imports to the US increased in 2014, with more than 80 per cent of shipments coming from Australia. While we don’t yet have access to the US market, he highlighted how exports of high-quality cuts would provide the best opportunities for UK lamb.

Stan was followed by Beef+Lamb New Zealand’s Dave Harrison who provided delegates with a review of New Zealand sheep supply. They heard how the organisation works and is held to account by producers, why the EU remains an important market, and how the rise of markets in North Asia have been central to New Zealand’s export strategy.

All provided plenty of food for thought and prompted an interesting question and answer panel session, not least on the issue of New Zealand lamb’s impact on the market in the UK. Panel sessions like this are an integral part of any successful conference in prompting debate on key topics. This afternoon panel underlined this with AHDB’s Peter Kendall, Tom Hind, Nick Allen and Chris Lloyd fielding questions in a lively afternoon session.

AHDB Beef & Lamb Conference afternoon panel session

The conference also gave delegates the chance to find out more about AHDB Beef & Lamb’s work, from consumer and trade marketing, to working directly with producers through our Better Returns Programme (BRP) and how we communicate with the industry. Staff were on hand to talk delegates through these respective areas and a series of presentations took place in the afternoon, highlighting specific areas of work.

AHDB R&D Livestock Director Chris Lloyd covered the array of work undertaken through the BRP, while Kim Matthews outlined the volume of research and development projects currently running. Mike Whittemore showcased trade marketing activity, highlighting the importance of our cuts development work in adding value to the carcase, before Rémi Fourrier gave an overview our activities in the French market, from promotional work in hypermarkets to organising visits for industry journalists to look at UK production systems. Rémi also outlined the importance of the
three-year European Lamb Campaign.

Panel sessions prompted lively debate

The AHDB Beef & Lamb presentations concluded with Jane Ritchie-Smith looking at consumer marketing, including the
latest TV advertising campaign, and AHDB Market Development Direct Nick Allen looking at the outlook for beef and lamb from the consumer perspective. Nick focussed on the opportunities in the Halal sector, the impact of the hard discounters on shopping habits and, underlining Peter Kendall’s earlier comments, how we have to be robust in defending the industry when challenged by reports like the one from IARC last week.

Overall, the conference, highlighted the breadth of work AHDB Beef & Lamb does on behalf of the industry, illustrating where the opportunities and challenges are and how we can meet those together. As new AHDB Beef & Lamb Strategy Director, Laura Ryan, concluded, it’s essential for AHDB Beef & Lamb to continue working for, and engage with, the sector to ensure we capitalise on the opportunities for home-produced beef and lamb domestically and globally

Conference presentations can be found on the Annual Conference 2015 page of our website The conference can be viewed in tweets here. A video summarising the even can be found on AHDB Beef & Lamb TV.