A new group made up of organisations from across the red meat industry has been set up to counter the negative and mixed messaging which filter out to consumers and provide a ‘trusted, united voice’ for the sector.
Building on the Royal Smithfield Club’s reputation as a respected agricultural charity - up until 2004 it organised one of the premier prime stock shows in the world - the new forum will take on a more active and overarching sector role in promoting best practice in the production of quality livestock for the British meat industry.
Chairman William Bedell told a press briefing in London that faced with issues such as a no-deal Brexit, an interrupted non-UK labour supply, consolidation of the processing sector, and the negative health and environmental messages increasingly associated with red meat, the sector was facing ‘the most serious issues since foot and mouth disease’.
“There is a lack of a strong and united industry voice,” said Mr Bedell.
“As an independent, apolitical group we can ask the awkward questions and address the issues other organisations may not be able to ask for commercial or political reasons.”
John Dracup, Dartmoor beef and sheep farmer and former red meat procurement director for 2 Sisters, will be the group’s strategy director.
He said: “Our main aim is to unite the red meat supply chain to ensure a consistent message reaches our customers.
“In order to achieve this, we will be challenging and engaging with our industry, which will have to evolve considerably during the coming months and years.”
Mr Dracup said the forum would not duplicate any of the work being done by organisations such as AHDB or the NFU, but would ‘encourage’ them to communicate more effectively with producers and consumers where appropriate.
He said messaging around farm assurance, for example Red Tractor, was sometimes ‘over complicated by the industry’ and needed to be simplified to effect change in buying habits among consumers.
“We cannot just have rhetoric,” added Mr Dracup.
“Green rolling hills, trust and traceability are words we have been using for the last 50 years, but what do they actually mean?”
The group brings together organisations from across the supply chain including levy boards, unions, processors, breed and show societies, as well as MPs. They will meet quarterly.
HRH The Countess of Wessex recently became the new president of The Royal Smithfield Club.