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East Anglia/UK: Big meat firms ‘hitting beef farm economics’ warns livestock auction operator

PUBLISHED: 06:00 21 June 2014

Farmers are concerned about falling beef prices.

Farmers are concerned about falling beef prices.

Large wholesale meat buyers dominating the market are having a “seriously detrimental effect” on the economics of beef farming, a local livestock market operator has warned.

Livestock auctioneer Graham EllisLivestock auctioneer Graham Ellis

Stanfords, which runs the weekly Colchester Livestock Market, has blamed a substantial fall in retail butchers and the rise of larger meat companies for falling beef prices.

British farming union leaders met earlier this month in London for a Presidential Summit to discuss the downward spiral in farm gate prices, which they warned was damaging farmers’ confidence.

The group, which included the National Farmers’ Union, called on retailers, processors and caterers to take responsibility for the decisions they make and the impact they are having on the sustainability of the sector. Farming unions also called for British beef to be promoted to consumers and for imported meat to be clearly labelled.

Stanfords auctioner Graham Ellis said beef farmers had suffered a “substantial drop” in prime beef cattle prices since February.

“Auction markets provide an open, transparent view of the market place and it is extremely frustrating for all producers of prime quality cattle when prices have fallen below the cost of production,” he said.

“Many of the larger meat companies are owned by Irish companies who import beef when the trade is on the floor, adversely affecting the quality beef market in this country.

“By the public supporting local retail butchers with full traceability and buying British then we all hope to see a return to proper returns to beef producers.

“Beef is not a cheap commodity but British beef is of superb quality and the public we are sure will support that principle, but it has to come from the front and support of the quality outlets.”

The way forward was quality beef produced on local farms, killed in local abattoirs and supplying local outlets, he said.

“At least at an auction market in most cases the vendor has the ability to take an animal home if they are not happy with the price offered and there are buyers for all sizes, shapes and qualities of stud.”

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