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Stackyard News Nov 2012

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Asda/ABP BeefLink Celebrates Five Years

Asda/ABP's groundbreaking BeefLink producer group scheme celebrated its fifth birthday this week, a significant achievement in an ever turbulent red meat market.

Asda senior red meat trader Jim Viggars

Jim Viggars

The scheme, which runs nationwide across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, was established in 2007 and since its inception has been focussed on improving both producer returns and beef quality available to Asda shoppers, explained Asda senior red meat trader Jim Viggars.

Speaking at a celebration event at York Racecourse on Tuesday 27 November Mr Viggars said Asda had set out to work with leading farmers and ensure continuity of quality for Asda customers. "We've achieved this by forming closer working relationships with our supplier farmers and rewarding them more for producing the type of top quality beef we need week in, week out.

"When BeefLink was formed farmgate beef prices were hovering around the 200p/kg mark and producers were struggling to make decent margins in beef production," he explained.

"We at Asda recognised that we had to change things of we were to have British beef to supply our stores with. We set about putting in place a range of measures aimed at helping farmers maximise both quality and returns.

"This wasn't the normal route for retailers, but we wanted to break the mould and get closer to our farmers. Only by listening to each other and working in partnership can we all be better at what we do."

One of the most immediate actions taken was to reward farmers for meeting the top specification and communicate clearly exactly what Asda was looking for, added Mr Viggars. "Having cattle which meet specification works for everyone, farmers earn more, processors have less waste to dispose of, retailers have excellent product on their shelves and consumers enjoy the beef they buy."

And, helping BeefLink farmers increase the number of cattle meeting specification has been a key driver behind the BeefLink Improved Genetics initiative which has allowed BeefLink farmers to obtain semen from a number of leading bulls at significantly discounted rates, added Asda agricultural manager Pearce Hughes.

"By enabling farmers to use better genetics they gain through on-farm efficiencies and improved carcass grading and hence improved margins.

"On top of the standard breeds available we have also sourced Wagyu semen to enable our BeefLink farmers to tap in to a premium market at the same time as benefitting from improved calving ease. Wagyu is the ideal sire for heifers and produces a great beef carcass which earns BeefLink farmers a premium over conventional breeds."

Working with BeefLink farmers on the Wagyu project enabled Asda to be the first UK supermarket to bring Wagyu sired beef, a premium product, to the mainstream market, added Mr Hughes.

"Through other schemes, such as the Heavy Beef Scheme, the Once Bred Heifer Scheme and the Over Thirty Month Scheme we've given all BeefLink farmers the opportunity to earn top prices for all their cattle, delivering value to them and maximising efficiency in beef production."

The celebration event also saw a number of BeefLink producers rewarded for going the extra mile in supplying beef to Asda.

Winning awards for loyalty, delivering exceptional consistency and working in collaboration with ABP and Asda were; G K Robertson, Forfar, Robert Trimble, Northern Ireland, Les Morgan, Leominster and Maurice Hymas, Harrogate.

Meanwhile, collecting a long service award for being the longest continuous supplier of beef to Asda through ABP was James Davies, Condover, who has been supplying ABP's Shrewsbury plant for 23 years.

And, rewarded for his ongoing support for Asda, including helping create Asda's first farmer focussed advert was Adrian Ivory, Perth.

Asda/ABP BeefLink demonstation farmer Mike Powley, York, was also recognised for his continued innovation in beef production and delivering improved productivity through uptake of new technologies.

Warwickshire farmer Adam Quinney also picked up an award for his work in driving forward the first BeefLink Progeny Testing Unit which was developed as a result of his BeefLink Scholarship which funded his study tour to both the USA and France.

ABP's Asda agricultural manager Elwyn Pugh said all the award winners represented the very best of BeefLink farmers. "These winners are the pinnacle of our supply base, but the real winners today are all the BeefLink farmers who have been supplying top quality beef for the last five years.

"They've helped us deliver great beef to Asda shoppers. But more importantly they've helped deliver a sustainable, profitable future for both their own businesses and the wider UK beef indsutry."

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