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Retailers knock confidence of bull finishers

An apparent shift away from young bull beef by some retailers is creating ripples of nervousness among finishers.

One of the most recent beef processors to react to the trend was St Merryn Foods, part of the 2 Sisters Food Group.

 

In January the company told beef finishers it would be down-scaling its procurement of young bulls during 2016.  

 

A statement from the company said: “Increasing numbers of retail customers have determined that they no longer wish to use meat from young bulls in their premium and standard ranges.

 

Reduction

 

"This means that our ability and desire to process these animals will be reduced as the range of outlets for young bull meat will be limited.

 

“The use of young bull meat into these ranges will be reduced over a number of months, and it is hoped this will help ease a transition period for those producers affected.”

 

Procurement director John Dracup said St Merryn was doing its best to be proactive in dialogue with producers to help them accommodate the changes.

 

A spokesman for Tesco, one of the company’s customers, said: "We will continue to use young bulls in our mince, burgers and meatballs and Boswell Farms ranges, but will be removing them from Tesco Brand beef products by the end of 2016.

 

Quality

 

"These changes are part of our continuous review to improve the quality and consistency of our products for customers.”

 

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said the real “kick in the teeth” was the fact, at the same time,  some retailers’ were dictating to their aligned milk producers, what they could and could not do with their bull calves.

 

But Mr Sercombe did say the union’s dealings with some other major processors indicated no plans to change their current young bull procurement.

 

Integrated beef and rose veal specialist Buitelaar said it was growing its bull beef business.

 

Managing director Adam Buitelaar added: “There has never been a better time to feed black and white young bulls with barley prices low. In my opinion they are the best paying enterprise on farm.

 

Enterprise

 

“Our price is very stable and has only moved 10p in 18 months and we are underwriting a price for bulls from the day they enter the farm.”

 

The same message came from the Stabiliser Cattle Company’s Beef Improvement Group.

 

“Beef from young bulls is the most profitable finishing system and it delivers for consumers,” the group claims, having produced more than 4,000 Stabiliser young bulls for the BIG/ Morrisons yearling beef scheme since 2012.

 

 “Yearling bulls finished between 12 and 14 months old at fat class 3 and 4L to a weight specification of 320-370kg deliver a profit for the farmer and deliver great beef to the consumer,” says the group.

 

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