New Organisation Puts Trust in Grass09 November 2012
UK- A new organisation- The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association- has been set up to champion the virtues of grass raised and finished beef welcoming new members.
Evolving as a farmer-based movement, the founder members have developed a set of standards which define the pasture-fed system for beef and sheep, and registered the PASTORAL ‘pasture-fed for life’ trade mark. Producers whose systems meet the standards can market their meat under this brand.
The organisation promotes the idea of pasture-based systems representing a more natural feeding regime for ruminants. They claim that research shows they produce meat with lower saturated fat and more health-promoting properties.
“Many beef and sheep farmers in this country feed some grain to finish animals,” explains PFLA chairman John Meadley. “But when pasture is managed well and good conserved forage is available, this should be unnecessary.
Lincolnshire beef farmer John Turner, a founder PFLA member, sells pasture-fed animals to the ABP Food Group. He achieves typical growth rates of 1.1kg/day during the finishing period. Other PFLA members report rates up to 1.67kg/day on well-managed pasture.
“Last year’s dry conditions means animals are currently finishing at 28 months rather than the target 22 months” says Mr Turner. “But cattle marketed last week (31 October) are still reaching a respectable 400kg deadweight with most grading at –U3 and –U4L, with one at U+4L."
Mr Turner believes this is a reasonable conformation to aim for and represents a more profitable and resilient system than one that relies ong grain. The main bonus being that feeding costs are relatively constant and not exposed to volatile grain markets.
Kate Phillips, of Gloucestershire abattoir Ensors Ltd has already procured PFLA approved cattle – with beef going on to retail in butchers’ shops in London and Bristol.
“There is no doubt that cattle can be finished on pasture – as long as the right breed is used and the grass managed well,” says Ms Phillips. “The pasture-fed ones we have handled so far have certainly come up to spec.”
Farmers can join the PFLA for £50. Once they meet the standards, they can become Approved Suppliers and market their meat under the PASTORAL brand. There are currently 50 members, with 12 selling meat under the PASTORAL label through farm shops, box schemes and local butchers.
“Once there are more suppliers we will actively promote the brand to consumers,” says Dr Meadley. “There was great interest in the pilot trials we ran earlier this year in Gloucestershire; shoppers liked the taste, flavour and provenance of pasture-fed meat.
“By scanning a QR code at the point of sale, or entering a unique code on the PFLA website (www.pasturefed.org), they can trace meat back to the farm of origin and find out how it was raised.”
TheCattleSite News Desk