03 Jan 2019

Further opportunity for profitable dairy beef market

Beef farmers should re-evaluate their approach to dairy beef as it provides huge potential for growth and opportunity to boost production while meeting market demands.

Speaking at a recent Crediton Milling Company (CMC) meeting, founder of Straightline Beef, Robert Drysdale said current UK beef production stands at 2.5 million head a year - 1.9 million head of which is prime beef.

This equates to 900,000 tonnes of beef. Although 150,000 tonnes are exported, the UK is still a net importer bringing in around 400,000 tonnes in 2017/18 – taking total domestic demand to 1.1 million tonnes. “We produce half a million head fewer beef cattle than what we eat – and global demand is rising - so there’s an opportunity here,” explained Mr Drysdale.

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If the industry is serious about increasing beef production, it needs to meet consumer and retailer demands. “We need to work backwards from the target product,” he explained. Farmers need to pay attention to welfare and antibiotic resistance, as well as sustainability, carbon footprint, meat quality, marbling, fat consistency and health benefits.

Beef isn’t sold on taste anywhere in the world, stressed Mr Drysdale. “But I think it will after Brexit - so fat and marbling will be important.” However, UK farmers are poorly paid for a good product, so in future the industry will need to reward consistency in meeting targets such as meat quality and sustainability.

Straightline Beef case study

A qualified veterinary surgeon, Mr Drysdale started Straightline Beef in 2014 with all of these market demands in mind. He produces dairy beef across a number of farms – both tenanted and on contract - retaining 100% ownership where possible and is now killing 200-300 cattle a month.

He uses an integrated cloud system that follows every single animal from birth to slaughter, providing 100% traceability. And he pays for an independent audit every week to ensure farm managers are operating at the highest level.

There’s also a classroom on-farm so that Mr Drysdale can bring in other farmers and traders within the supply chain to show them how the system works and dispel misconceptions they may have.

It’s a system based on continual monitoring and tight control that not only delivers consistent quantity and quality but also provides exactly what the customer wants. Next year Mr Drysdale anticipates killing out 5,500 animals to meet growing demand.

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