Meat firms’ delight at export accolades

Nick Allen, Sector Director for Eblex, Kevin Burrows of C & K Meats of Eye, Ed Bedington editor of M

Nick Allen, Sector Director for Eblex, Kevin Burrows of C & K Meats of Eye, Ed Bedington editor of Meat Trades Journal. - Credit: Archant

Two family-run East Anglian meat firms are celebrating prestigious export accolades.

Nick Allen, Sector Director for Eblex, Fergus Howie director of Wicks Manor, Ed Bedington editor of

Nick Allen, Sector Director for Eblex, Fergus Howie director of Wicks Manor, Ed Bedington editor of Meat Trades Journal. - Credit: Archant

C & K Meats of Eye, which has its own abattoir, built in the last few years, and cutting plant, scooped the Exporter of the Year category at the Meat & Poultry Processing Awards, which recognise excellence in the meat and poultry industry.

Pig farmers and meat processors Wicks Manor, based at Tolleshunt Major, near Maldon, was among the finalists in the same category.

The judges said of the title winner: “Investing in a new plant while facing into the teeth of the recession, C&K Meat’s bravery has paid off and in just four and a half short years, the company has already hit maximum capacity with exports playing a key part in that business growth. A focus on full carcase utilisation has paid dividends for the company, which has performed strongly in the Far East.”

Kevin Burrows, who runs the company, which now employs 92 staff, with his brother Chris, said: “It’s great, for myself and the team of people I have here.”

From a standing start two years ago in May, Kevin has built up an export trade which now accounts for about a tenth of the £18million turn-over firm’s business.

“I don’t take no for an answer. I took 30 flights to Asia last year. All the export sales are done by myself. We have now opened up routes to Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand, Macau in China is opening up,” he said.

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This year he is off to Japan, Taiwan and Thailand with the aim of building up the firm’s beef, pork and lamb exports business still further. The company already exports to continental Europe and has ambitions to open up trade with the USA and Greece.

Kevin says he is “ecstatic” about how the trade has grown and is full of praise for UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), whose advisers help UK firms to sell their products abroad.

“It’s a part of Government I think we ought to be proud of,” he said.

His company aims at the top end of the market and fine dining, rather than the bulk end.

“We only single out those who deal with high end users,” he said. “The commodity work we don’t really go after. It’s all about fine dining for us. If they are high end, they are not so concerned about price so we can suppport our suppliers.”

His firm offered integrity and transparency of the supply chain, he explained.

“We buy directly from farms ourselves. We slaughter, we process, then we export so there’s very few hands in the chain,” he said.

“They want that transparency and security of the product.”

Meanwhile, the Wicks Manor business has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes. Robert Howie started producing quality pork on the family’s arable farm in 1967 but the decline in trade meant the future of the pork farm was under threat until the family established the Wicks Manor brand, selling directly to shops and restaurants in the UK.

The business is fully integrated, with pigs being born and bred on the farm. The pigs live in large open straw yards and they feed on wheat and barley crops which are grown and milled on the farm.

The cutting plant has a professional team of butchers producing the bacon, ham, sausages, ham and pulled pork.

“We were delighted to be finalists in the Exporter of the Year Award,” said director Fergus Howie.

“We now export 23% of our sales and are aiming to grow this to 30% by the end of the year. We currently export to Dubai, Singapore, Sweden, Hong Kong, Brunei, Bermuda, and Macau China.

“Customers are keen to deal with producers that can prove traceability of the products from the piglets we raise on the farm, to the care and husbandry that ensures good welfare of the pigs through to the quality of the home butchered meat.

“We are negotiating with buyers and distributors from other parts of the world and this year we will have an opportunity to meet many of them at the international food show IFE in London, and a major show in Hong Kong, Hofex, in May.”