The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, a new organisation which champions the virtues of raising and finishing stock solely on grass and conserved forages, is up and running and welcoming new members.
The PASTORAL logo guarantees meat comes from animals that have eaten a grass-based diet throughout their lifetime.
Evolving as a farmer-based movement, the founder members have developed a set of standards which define the pasture-fed system for beef and sheep, and registered the PASTORAL ‘pasture-fed for life’ trade mark. Producers whose systems meet the standards can market their meat under this brand.
Pasture-based systems represent a more natural feeding regime for ruminants and research shows they produce meat with lower saturated fat and more health-promoting properties.
“Many beef and sheep farmers in this country feed some grain to finish animals,” explains PFLA chairman John Meadley. “But when pasture is managed well and good conserved forage is available, this should be unnecessary.
“We want to help beef and lamb producers looking to cut costs, or keen to produce more meat from pasture. We have an active internet discussion forum and emerging regional groups that share their experiences and knowledge of pastoral farming.”
Cattle can finish off pasture
Lincolnshire beef farmer John Turner, a founder PFLA member, sells pasture-fed animals to the ABP Food Group. He achieves typical growth rates of 1.1kg/day during the finishing period. Other PFLA members report rates up to 1.67kg/day on well-managed pasture.
The PFLA is helping farmers produce more meat from pasture.“Last year’s dry conditions mean animals are currently finishing at 28 months rather than the target 22 months” says Mr Turner. “But cattle marketed last week (31 October) are still reaching a respectable 400kg deadweight with most grading at –U3 and –U4L, with one at U+4L.
“We keep a strong commercial focus with our stock rearing. I really believe that –U is a reasonable conformation to aim for, and for us represents a far more profitable and resilient system than one that relies on grain. There is also the added bonus that we know our feeding costs will remain constant as we are not exposed to volatile global grain markets.”
Kate Phillips, National Account Manager for Ensors Ltd, an abattoir based in Gloucestershire, has already procured PFLA approved cattle – with beef going on to retail in butchers’ shops in London and Bristol.
“There is no doubt that cattle can be finished off pasture – as long as the right breed is used and the grass managed well,” says Ms Phillips. “The pasture-fed ones we have handled so far have certainly come up to spec.”
Farmers can join the PFLA for £50. Once they meet the standards, they can become Approved Suppliers and market their meat under the PASTORAL brand. There are currently 50 members, with 12 selling meat under the PASTORAL label through farm shops, box schemes and local butchers.
“Once there are more suppliers we will actively promote the brand to consumers,” says Dr Meadley. “There was great interest in the pilot trials we ran earlier this year in Gloucestershire; shoppers liked the taste, flavour and provenance of pasture-fed meat.
“By scanning a QR code at the point of sale, or entering a unique code on the PFLA website (www.pasturefed.org), they can trace meat back to the farm of origin and find out how it was raised.”
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