New initiative explores markets for pasture-fed suckled veal

Pasture for Life certification not only provides absolute assurance about what animals have been fed throughout their lives, but also works to uphold high standards of animal welfare and strong ethics.

When Pasture for Life certification for dairy farmers was launched in January 2018, the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA), working with its group of pilot farmers, established that offspring from pasture-fed dairy cows must be given the chance of life, and where possible, remain on certified farms their entire lives.

In the UK consumption of beef from animals born out of dairy herds is increasing. A proportion of this is sold as veal, defined as meat from cattle aged less than eight months, and as rosé veal from cattle eight to 12 months of age.

According to data from the Meat and Livestock Commission (now part at AHDB), the UK imports 95% of the 2,000 tonnes of veal eaten here.

The concept for British pasture-fed suckled veal on a commercial scale is being developed via a collaborative effort involving a small group of Pasture for Life farmers.

Nick Green, a PFLA member who is leading the group, explains:

“Whilst we acknowledge that this is an ambitious undertaking, the early signs are there may be a real opportunity to deliver a very high-quality product; one that sees the calves fully valued, whilst establishing new routes to market for Pasture for Life beef and dairy farmers. Our efforts may also go some way to improving the negative connotations and perceptions around veal.

“There is no blueprint in the UK on a commercial scale, for pasture-raised suckled veal from dairy-cross or beef-sired dairy calves. We are setting out to create an entirely new set of enterprises and to develop our own systems to suit our animals and our ethos.”

Feasibility study

The group has now committed to carry out a self-funded feasibility study to see how the product can best reach consumers, butchers and restaurateurs.

“Our project is in the early stages,” says Nick. “Between now and Christmas we are working through a feasibility study and business planning. The aim is to assess whether this approach to producing meat, which is sold principally for superior eating quality, is technically possible and commercially viable.

“At this first development and testing phase, partnerships with supportive and like-minded individuals are going to be crucial. We are starting to build relationships with potential buyers and butchers who practice whole carcass butchery, who are motivated to work with us as the process evolves, and will get behind the story and provide feedback.

“The challenges are numerous and we are engaged with a range of experts and organisations who are interested in helping us find the answers. These include the PFLA’s board of Directors, the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB), Compassion in World Farming, RSPCA and Farm491, as well as individual consultants and experienced practitioners.

“We are remaining open-minded and are very keen to hear any good ideas, whether they be technical, marketing or even for naming the product! These may reinforce our current thoughts or intentions, and help to drive this valuable project forward. Please do get in touch.”

Anyone wishing to speak to Nick about the project can get in touch via the PFLA office at [email protected]

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