Food Chain Centre Publishes Red Meat Report

The Food Chain Centre (FCC) has published a report on its work into the application of lean thinking techniques to the red meat industry.

In order to explore the potential commercial benefits of lean thinking for the meat industry, the FCC completed nine whole chain projects between 2002 and 2006.

These nine projects were carried out in conjunction with the Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF) and Cardiff University, and covered the three red meat species, a range of widely bought products and a variety of different routes to market.

Across the nine chains, the FCC identified seven areas in which wasteful activities impact on red meat supply chains: producer management; demand management; customer value; opportunistic trading; producer efficiency; on-shelf availability and carcase balance.

The report explains the potential problems within each of these areas and identifies steps that can be taken to implement lean thinking and realise potential benefits.

"In all of the value chains studied, the process of mapping uncovered many opportunities for reduction of waste and improvement of efficiency," it states.

"Many of the issues identified could be addressed by operational improvements, achievable through existing structures and relationships, requiring only a modest increase in cooperation between supply chain partners. Others would require a more fundamental adjustment in thinking."

The red meat report was compiled as part of a wider research programme by the FCC, which was aimed at testing and promoting a variety of business methods to help boost profitability for Britain's food and farming industry.

The project, described as the "biggest-ever evaluation of business improvement techniques for food and farming", involved almost 2,000 farm businesses and over 120 other food companies.

"The results show the tremendous capacity of the industry to profit from working more effectively together," said FCC chairman Joanne Denney-Finch.

"Companies involved in 25 of our projects reported savings totalling a minimum of £14.4 million, much of which is repeatable in future years.

"However, the real value is not for these participants, but in demonstrating the potential returns for farm businesses of the work we have undertaken in applying marketing, lean thinking and benchmarking."

The FCC has completed similar pilot programmes in dairy, fresh produce and cereals, and separate reports are available for all these sectors.