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The organic meat and livestock market in Wales

Meadow Quality/Graig Producer report

January 2016

Trade demand has seen very little Christmas uplift and we are selling a number of organic cattle under native beef schemes, with prices only differing by 8-10p/kg, moving cattle is uppermost in our minds as prices for conventional beef come under pressure from imports. This pressure has seen conventional prices fall by 6-8p/kg over the last 3 weeks and some (non-MQ) farmers are facing 2-3 week waiting times to move their cattle.

As we come to the end of 2015, it's worth seeing what prices have been in past Decembers. Beef in 2013 and 2014 was 435p and 385p respectively It is therefore disappointing to report present prices of 365p/kg for beef. It cannot be price alone that is putting off demand from processors? It is quite clear that the organic message is not getting through to consumers and the need for a major retailer to get on board is ever more important – we wait for 2016 with anticipation!

We are hoping to have new outlets in January for organic barren cows as the catering/food service looks for healthy mince meat supplies and a new beef buyer for grass fed organic beef. All positive news!

It is encouraging to hear that online-only retailer Ocado saw its gross retail sales rise by 13% to £351.8 million in the fourth quarter according to their trading statement issued last week. On their website, there is a wide range of organic products for sale which helps to get the message of “healthy eating” to consumers. I would suggest that messages about antibiotic usage could be the number 1 issue raised by retailers/consumers next year, which puts the regulatory controls used in organic production ahead of their competitors. Stuart Vile 07802 379 126

Beef price data 2014-15Beef price graph

Cattle slaughtered 2014-15Graph of cattle slaughtered

Good and improving trade for organic finished lamb as numbers continue to go short not helped by the wet weather making fattening conditions very difficult. Prices are rising – up 10-15p, but likely to ease back from mid-month till mid-January, before firming again. Store lambs keenly wanted. For lamb, 2014 ended at 425-430p/kg. It is therefore disappointing to report present 360-375p/kg for lamb. It cannot be price alone that is putting off demand from processors?

The IGD recently reported that it expects 69% of Christmas shoppers to buy from Aldi/Lidl, with 62% of these shoppers looking to save money and 40% because of product quality. Aldi and Lidl have added 1 million more shoppers in the last year and they have gone more up market, with the result that 31% of theirs shoppers are now in the wealthier AB social group. Why is this of organic importance? They have noticed major consumer trends supporting British meat, welfare friendly (organic eggs) and something a bit special.

An interesting report also came out in October from Waitrose, telling us the top food trends of their customers. For instance, in London 40% of Waitrose sales are after 5 p.m., as people buy dinner on their way home. Meanwhile, three in 10 people now visit a supermarket 3 to 4 times a week – up from 25% of us five years ago. Two thirds of shoppers admit to being overwhelmed by the endless choice available. When it comes to health, 8 in 10 surveyed admitted to no longer liking to be told what's healthy and what's not! The information may not be organically orientated but gives an insight into how the minds of supermarkets, farmers and customers operate. Stuart Vile 07802 379 126.

Lamb price data 2014-15Lamb prices graph

Lamb slaughtered 2014-15Graph of lambs slaughtered

December 2015

Christmas Beef orders slow early to mid November with no increased activity– possibly due to the warm weather putting off purchases, and all beef sales were reported as 'steady'. Reasonable numbers are going through though; and we encourage forward booking to keep on top of any bottle-neck in supplies. At the time of writing two more weeks remain for a normal season of Christmas cattle buying – with cattle prices for now remaining level. Good enquiries for organic store cattle with good demand for Organic store cattle wanted for finishing next March/April wanted, particularly those beef breeds that offer flexibility to go into “other premium schemes”.

Organic barren cows wanted from several outlets with good meaty cows making over £1,000 (16/11) Organic cull cows – trade a touch easier due to an increase in availability of numbers.
Stuart Vile 07802 379 126

Beef price data 2014-15Beef price graph

Cattle slaughtered 2014-15Graph of cattle slaughtered

Organic lamb demand was under stress at the beginning of November, heavily influenced by a poor trade for non-organic lamb pulling organic lamb prices downwards. From mid-November lamb prices became a touch stronger due to supplies becoming tighter, gaining 10p on the week (16/11) and by the end of the month lamb trade recorded some useful improvement, with the gap between standard and organic lambs widening, with a 5p lift on the former and 10p on the latter.
Stuart Vile 07802 379 126

Lamb price data 2014-15Lamb prices graph

Lamb slaughtered 2014-15Graph of lamb slaughtered

For full details of the advantages of membership, including great savings on inputs, contact Graig Producers on 01789 734124.

Organic Livestock Auctions

Welshpool Livestock Sales' Call 01938 553438 for details.

Carmarthen Livestock Centre holds regular organic auctions on the first Friday of the month. Call 01267 236268 or Huw Evans on 07976 328177 for details or e-mail .

McCartneys. Regular organic auctions are held on the last Friday of the month. Call 01874 622386 for details.

Organic price information
More livestock price information can be found at Soil Association

November 2015

Beef supplies continue to meet demand but volumes purchased are greatly less than required last year. An additional requirement for organic finishers is now to provide documentation of their organic store cattle source to ensure lifetime organic status has been observed. Beef store cattle wanted, with prices similar to commercial cattle. Possibility of a new organic outlet opening in the South West in the New Year. Prices may just start to improve for beef as we enter the Christmas buying season in early November.

In the USA the sandwich chain Subway announced that it was changing its meat buying policy, and that by 2025 it would only be serving beef and pork from animals that had never received antibiotics. This announcement follows a similar message declared by McDonalds and asks the question whether the farming industry is adapting quickly enough to consumer demands. Here in the UK we continue to ask the question whether consumers will veer towards organic meat or does “grass fed beef” have a stronger message amongst consumers?

Lamb sales are holding up at a time when commercial lamb prices continue to come under pressure. With plenty of autumn grass available, store lambs are being sought. Organic lambs are wanted for a Manchester buyer. Supplies of organic lambs continue to exceed current requirements, prices down 5p in some quarters, standing on at best elsewhere.

October 2015

Trade steady for beef with supplies meeting orders well. Demand for beef expected towards the end of the month as supermarkets gear themselves up for Christmas. Organic beef trading this week at similar levels to previous week, easing slightly in line with the commercial trade by 3p, and numbers coming to market picking up.

Barren cull cows – currently seeing better prices being paid by commercial outlets for cows straight out of the parlour (160-240kg Dw) than being offered by organic buyers, but check before marketing. Store cattle sales remain strong with average prices ranging from 190-210p/kg depending on age, quality and size.

The influence of politicians setting the agenda for farmers is ever increasing and this week the Dutch Parliament is considering changes to dairy husbandry which may determine how EU dairy farms are farmed in the future. They are proposing a law demanding a new mandatory grazing period of 120 days per year for dairy cows and outlawing the expansion of fully housed herds. This bill, if passed, will convey a message to the consumer that could influence more positive demand for organic red meat.

Lamb have been facing up to a 10 day waiting time between supplies meeting orders, due to increased numbers coming off grass. Organic lamb demand steady – numbers coming forward exceeding processors capacity for sales, but a useful premium of 20p/kg being maintained which is just “okay” as lambs continue to come off 'cheaper' grass. Whilst overall trade remains fairly stable at +/- 10p/kg, it still pays to forward book lambs for sale to realise the organic premium -. Stuart Vile Meadow Quality Limited

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