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An analysis of trends in the UK beef industry and the key dynamics of change for 2015

A paper which offers strategies for UK beef production from a producer perspective.

Year of Publication2003

Clearly for the British beef industry, an ‘optimistic’ scenario (or better), is the one it would wish to see by 2015 rather than the ‘realistic’ - but fatalistic one. What, therefore, are the implications for the strategic development of the industry, the ways in which individuals, companies and agencies as well as Government can influence their strategies to achieve the better scenario for everyone involved? This paper explains some of the historical trends and examines future potential drivers for the industry.Executive summary of the implications for future strategy:1. Need to improve the understanding of consumer needs - implies more consumer research e.g. into consumers’ response to differentiated fresh/chilled beef; into how much extra assurance (at a rising cost to the industry) they really need over and above the statutory obligations of the industry.2. Need to better understand the manufacturers and their market (they account for an increasing share of the 70% ‘convenience’ usage of beef) - need to work more closely with them.3. Encourage greater differentiation of the product (managed by closely focused consumer research) - regional/breed, organic.4. Consider the possibilities of systems of beef production that maintain a quality image but utilise cattle for producing carcass meat for the ‘convenience’ sector - this commodity sector faces the most serious challenge from imports. Systems development and genetic techniques can help create competitiveness but must overcome consumer concerns.5. Encourage greater farmer to abattoir/processor linkages to shorten the traditional supply chain. In order to develop regional/niche offerings farmers may have to seriously invest/partner small/medium plants.6. Adoption of techniques and technology to reduce the cost of production - focus more on the cost of production including processing.7. Address the cultural problem of resistance of farmers to change in the cattle sector - use/fund commercial services to better target advice.8. Understand the unrelated but potential impact of technological/system change in other sectors e.g. the general run of the push/pull forces; developments particularly in the dairy sector.9. Continue to support the re-development of the export market for quality meat - it can pull the differentiation and cost reduction developments.10. Never forget the strength of the pull forces in the industry to effect change - this is key to technology transfer - this implies continuing to develop better relations with industry end user customers.11. The funds to develop the industry must utilise other sources of finance other than statutory levy, particularly from the European Union (EU) and United Kingdom (UK) regional development programmes.12. Devolved bodies within the Meat & Livestock Commission (MLC) federal structure need to learn to operate effectively and efficiently, no time to let the grass grow!13. The devolved bodies’ promotional spend needs where possible to be increased but to be more focused to reflect the changing market, that is not necessarily only aimed at local markets e.g. Scotch beef, British Hereford beef, but to maximise the value of the British offering as well as the regional one.

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