ABP said its core business would remain in beef but it recognised the ‘the growing demand’ for meat-free products.
ABP has launched its first fresh meat-free brand for distribution in the UK with a burger under the brand Equals available in UK stores from this week.
ABP said it was a range with ‘both texture and flavour to equal the meat-eating experience’, made from pea and soy proteins.
Luke Johnson, who farms in partnership with his father near Shrewsbury, was disappointed at the news, especially at a time when input costs were high and prices kept falling.
He added it was especially galling many farmers were unaware of ABP’s activities in meat-free products.
“You feel shafted,” he said.
“It feels like you are being stabbed in the back and then you find out that there are price cuts.”
Announcing the launch, Darren Jones, commercial director for ABP UK said it was very excited.
“Our core business is and will remain in beef but we recognise the growing demand for products that fit a flexitarian and meat-free lifestyle.
“As a business, we have long invested in the understanding market and consumer trends and we have a keen interest in exploring opportunities that provide consumers with choice.”
The Equals brand launch was being supported by a £250,000 instore marketing and social media campaign and will be available in Asda stores from this week.
ABP plans to extend listings to other retailers and food service providers over the coming months.
But Mr Johnson believed they should not be investing that money into ‘plant-based’ food.
“Surely they should be investing money into supporting meat brands and the loyal farmers continuously supplying them with cattle.”
He was particular concerned as a younger farmer when looking to what the future holds for businesses like his.
“I am quite upset. It makes you wonder about the future, especially for small family farms.”
Mr Johnson appreciated businesses needed to be open minded and explore other opportunities.
“But I would still say they need to also be reminded of the support from their farmers who supply them with their main source of income.”
ABP first entered the meat-free category in 2011 and since then it has grown to become the UK market leader for the production of own-label vegetable-based meat-free products.
The company employs over 100 people at its Eatwell meat-free processing facility in Liverpool.