After controversy surrounding proposed changes to the Red Tractor farm assurance scheme, the NFU has said quality British beef, the provenance of which can be easily traced, remains as popular among consumers as ever.
A consultation has been ongoing on proposals to increase the length of time cattle and sheep would have to be on-farm to gain assured status, from the current 90-day minimum to the lifetime of the animal.
While North East farmers have spoken enthusiastically of the move as a means of providing consumers with exactly what they expect from the produce, the Hexham-based National Beef Association says the majority of its members feel the changes are unnecessary – and some farmers have even questioned whether Red Tractor remains the right symbol to convey farm assured status.
This week, the NFU highlighted the findings of a recent YouGov poll that found 83% of meat eaters found beef a versatile ingredient that can be used in a lot of different recipes.
The poll, carried out ahead of Great British Beef Week (April 23-27) also found that steak was the favourite meal of those aged between 18 and 25, followed by spaghetti bolognaise.
Roast beef, meanwhile, was the number one choice of those aged 55 and over.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “It comes as no surprise to me that British Red Tractor assured beef remains as popular as it always has.
“We know the public want to eat more British produce and that provenance is important to them.
“And as the results of the YouGov poll reveal, beef is incredibly versatile, from large roasting joints for Sunday lunch to a lovely juicy steak.
“Beef production provides a wealth of public good, from environmental benefits to maintaining the British countryside and forming part of the farming backbone of rural communities.”
He added that UK beef farmers, like many in the farming industry, have faced some tough times during the past 12 months, not least because of the decline of the suckler herd.
Ahead of the election, it was important to highlight the need for the next government and the food industry to ensure there is long-term investment in the industry and that efforts are made to reduce the regulatory burden that stifles the livestock sector.
“Consumer and retailer support will be critical if we are to see the right market signals for beef farmers to invest and reverse the current decline in cow numbers,” Mr Sercombe said.
“Great British Beef Week is the perfect opportunity for livestock farmers to showcase their fantastic product and for the public to show their support for the industry.
“I’d urge everyone to back British farming by buying Red Tractor assured British beef and adding your name to the thousands of people who already say: Great British food gets my vote.”
Great British Beef Week is organised by Ladies in Beef and, as well as celebrating quality, home-produced meat, the event raises funds for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I) which helps those in difficulty in the farming industry.
The YouGov poll also looked at attitudes towards health.
In a close split among respondents, just over half who eat meat (54%) agreed they felt beef was good for them.