Communication Along Supply Chain Pays Off

UK - The beef supply chain business Blade Farming, owned by RWM Food Group, marked its 10th anniversary last month with an open day on its flagship finishing units owned by James Hook near Witney. Celebrity chef Brian Turner told guests from retailing, food service and farming that their continued success depended on good dialogue from one end of the chain to the other.
calendar icon 2 June 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

The Hook unit finishes 40 prime cattle per month, predominantly Aberdeen Angus-Holstein cross heifers, on a forage-based system that includes a minimum six-month grazing period. Prime cuts supply supermarket premium ranges and food service restaurant business, and forequarters and flanks go to McDonalds.

Open day host James Hook, who is also managing director of the PD Hook poultry hatchery and chicken business, says he adopted the Blade system “because it suits our chicken mentality, is easy to manage, easy to budget and easy to control. We’re currently making about £100 a head margin before overheads.”

Mr Hook also predicted future prices to farmers of £4/kg for beef, £1/kg for poultry meat and 40p/litre for milk. “A year ago, poultry feed was £220 a tonne and we were getting 60p/kg for chicken. Now, it is £306 and 90p. Higher prices will happen, because farmers will make money or we’ll be short of food; that’s the choice. And the reality is that higher ex-farm prices only make a small difference in the supermarket or restaurant.”

Since 2001, Blade Farming has reared more than 75,000 finished cattle, according to MD Richard Phelps. Along the way, he said a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) production model had been developed and was now used by all the company’s contract rearers.

Average daily liveweight gains had increased by 0.3kg/head/day over the past 10 years and the overall carbon footprint reduced markedly as a result. The 2015 projection, said Mr Phelps, was to reach 50,000 finished cattle per year.

Eblex chairman John Cross said the Blade Farming project was a classic supply chain vision in action. “Real change is hard to achieve,” he said, “and an initiative like this is as rare as duck’s teeth. Yet it has driven innovation in the meat supply chain. Optimising animal performance is a ‘must do’ element for profitable beef.”

He said Eblex monitoring found a wide range in performance, indicating how some farmers were vastly more efficient than others, and proving that Blade’s science-based, stress-free, healthy, well fed system produced high animal performance.

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