This workshop was organised to help producers understand recent trends in the organic red meat market and help them identify where the opportunities lie and where the pinch points are along the supply chain. With regard to the latter it focused on the issue of ensuring the supply of organic beef stores, many of which are currently sold on the conventional market, to enable us to meet the current demand for finished beef. This session was organised by the Organic Centre Wales (OCW)
DafyddOwen (OCW): chair.
Tim Leigh from OLMC
The first two speakers, Tim Leigh from OLMC and Stuart Vile from Graig Producers/Meadow Quality, summarised trends of the last season. After some increased demand in the spring, growth in demand has been slow and did not match supply. There has been a small premium over conventional for most of the year for beef. High feed costs put pressure on costs of production but consumers are not willing to buy organic meat at very high prices. There also was reduced shelf space in some multiple retailers as well as competition putting pressure on prices, from New Zealand lamb and Irish beef. There has not been much innovation regarding packaging and cuts in both markets.
The final speaker, Phil Jones, the Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year, produces store animals on a hill farm in Carmarthenshire. For him staying in business is very important and there have been considerable savings in fertiliser costs since he converted to organic. Phil keeps about 100 suckler cows, Limousin /Welsh Black crosses and sells stores both to conventional and organic buyers, but is concerned that he receives no premium for organic store cattle. His talk and the award were clear proof that it possible to farm organic in the hills and stay in business, with no purchased feed and by keeping things simple.
The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points:
- Quality remains key: producer of finished stock should aim to meeting carcass specifications and slaughter beef at less than 30 month, anything else is a lot more difficult to sell.
- Selling organic is about the story; a clear message about the benefits of organic meat would help and where the meat comes from is part of that story.
- Planning ahead and working with the marketing groups remains a good way forward.
- Mail order is increasing and also sales in the catering and food service sector have been increasing slowly. The Food for Life catering mark having created some interest, also in hotels.
- No easy way forward on how to link store production to the lowland finishing, but it was suggested that B&B for beef might be a way forward or alternatively store producers could consider to keeping fewer animals but finishing them.
Individual speaker presentations and abstracts
Stuart Vile (Graig Producers/Meadow Quality): The beef market – Linking store producers and finishers
In the autumn of 2013 we faced many problems when marketing organic stock for both store producers and finishers, will these problems grow and become the norm? In my discussion the role of promoting the virtues of organic beef and ages of cattle slaughtered decides whether it is possible to link store producers with finishers. The organic industry needs to change Supermarket buyers criteria for under 30 month old beef to stand a chance that a ‘producers link’ can be formalised. Costs of inputs, breeds of cattle and timing of sales will be discussed, whether the result meets the workshops approval we wait and see!
Philip Jones (Lan Farm): Producing and marketing beef stores: A farmer’s view (no powerpoint presentation)
To maximise profit, should the beef farmer sell more cattle as stores or keep fewer and finish them?