Tesco launches calf scheme

Tesco's dairy suppliers have signed up to a scheme agreeing to stop exports of live dairy calves.

Instead, the retailer has announced the animals will be used to supply British beef and veal to shoppers.

Tesco has developed a fully integrated system - called 'Calf-link' - which it claimed links dairy and beef producers to make it easier for the calves to enter the UK beef supply chain.

Tesco dairy category director Kari Daniels said, "We know that the live export of calves to the Continent is a highly emotive subject for customers. This is an important welfare issue and independent research shows that the majority of shoppers want this practice to end.

"We are proud of our record on welfare and are pleased to be the first major supermarket taking this important first step towards ending calf exports for good.

"Tesco is a great supporter of British beef and already sources over 95% of its beef in the UK. But what many people don't realise is that Britain is currently only 79% self

sufficient in beef* - so the extra calves this scheme will make available in the supply chain will be a significant boost."

"The fact that these calves will stay in the UK is good news for British farmers and shoppers alike because it makes a lot more top quality British beef available.

"In addition shoppers will be able to buy British veal - which will be reared to high welfare standards. Calves will have straw beds, a balanced diet and access to plenty of natural daylight."

The RSPCA has been campaigning to end the practice of live calf exports for some time.

RSPCA head of farm animal science, Dr Julia Wrathall, said: "The RSPCA is delighted by and strongly welcomes the end of exports which is an important step forward for calf welfare.

"In many cases, the way the calves are reared abroad simply does not satisfy their welfare needs, and there are a number of welfare risks for young calves associated with the long distance transport from the UK to Continental destinations. Tesco is demonstrating that it is possible to replace this trade by rearing these calves in the UK.

"We hope those supermarkets who have yet to address this issue will adopt a similar policy, and the RSPCA is working with the food and farming industries and through the Beyond Calf Exports Forum to achieve this."

While Tesco dedicated farmers can sell their calves to any audited farmer in the domestic supply chain, the supermarket's beef suppliers are now geared up to receive, rear and finish dairy calves too.

A new UK 'young beef' market should be extremely beneficial to dairy farmers - many of whom could not find a market for their calves at all during the export ban.

James Stephen, a Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group producer from Edzell said, "Tesco's 'Calf-link' scheme gives us a viable alternative to exporting calves.

With this in place we have a supply chain partnership which can deliver both efficiency and good returns for farmers and quality for customers."

Prices paid for the calves will be benchmarked against market prices and published on Dairy processor websites.

All Calves who are part this scheme will be reared to high independently audited welfare standards.