Extra effort pays off

The Blade system is not for the faint hearted, says Devon farmer Jilly Greed.

Effective targets have to be set, there are some extra costs of production and a lot of commitment involved in monitoring the animals.

She has South Devon, South Devon crosses and Blondes on her 500 acre farm near Tiverton in Devon. Of the 200 animals produced every year, 70 go to SCFF. The South Devon crosses are the most consistent at achieving the U+ conformation with the 3 fat class - a classification that earns her a £22 premium from SCFF.

The farm produces everything for the feed except a mineral supplement. In the early days of Blade a SCFF manager came to advise on the best feeding regime. "He did a simple tweak, suggesting we feed straw to improve fat cover. That took the fat class from 2's to 3's making a difference of 12p a kilo on the sale price," says Greed.

The processor also helped select her latest South Devon bull and she talks about him in much the same way that Jeremy Clarkson would enthuse about a Ferrari. "He's fantastic through the loin and rib." she says. "He's got a frame on which to put flesh and we'll get the U+3's from him."

By shortening the supply chain, building producer partnerships, demanding a quality specification and consistency SCFF has created a beef production model that effectively replaces 6p a kilo of subsidy for farmers.

But with costs of production running at something over £2 a kilo in Britain compared to 70p a kilo in Brazil and 90p a kilo in Argentina even more needs to be done. According to Greed that means the British meat industry investing in more brand development and more regional development.