Forum on meat calls for consistent quality

Britain needs a critical mass of quality meat production to ensure the survival of its industry infrastructure and maintain the public's interest in food.

This was one of the messages to emerge from a forum on meat, held as part of a one-day food information and networking event, organised by regional group Heart of England Fine Foods. Around 200 people attended the event, held at Aston Villa Football Club, including buyers and 50 West Midlands producers, who showed 500 products in a specially designed shop display area, branded 'Savour the Flavour'. A series of forums and seminars were also held.

The theme that emerged from the red meat and game forum was the need for consistent quality, based on volume production and markets for all parts of the meat carcase. Richard Ali, chief executive of EBLEX, said it was absolute nonsense that quality should only be associated with the premium end of the market. There needed to be a critical mass of quality production to sustain the industry, particularly its infrastructure of producers and abattoirs. This was supported by Richard Lutwyche, of Traditional Breeds Meat Marketing, who said that quality volume production was beneficial as it led to an interest in food generally and in premium meats.

Farmer Marcus Themans said part of the problem was that auditing procedures were too complicated and some supply chains too long. The world was moving to a situation where tighter rules governed the need for meat to be assured, said Ali. Hence, EBLEX had schemes based on assurance, that were audited. Themans noted that the quality of meat was being affected by some modern production practices and complained that there was too much talk about assurance and safe food and not enough about eating quality and value for money.

Difficulty in obtaining good quality meat was also seen as an issue. Chefs attending the forum said, while price was a factor, the number one priority was quality. Distribution was the weakest link, particularly into London, said one, while consistent quality, some of it at local level, was cited as the reason why another refused to put 'country of origin' on his menus. Ali said that, in such circumstances, chefs were doing everything right, but were breaking the chain by not promoting British meat.