Over the past 10 to 20 years UK farming has almost turned completely to commercial breeds and away from our traditional Native breeds. Although there are still exceptions to this, for example, Suffolk sheep and Aberdeen Angus Cattle. This has meant that there has been a large increase in our UK traditional breeds being moved onto the rare breed watch list. Although this is a case there is still a purpose for many of these breeds as they have been purpose-bred for their surroundings. With new environmental schemes coming into place breeds which in the past have seen decline have now seen a resurgence. For example, in Cumbria, the Herdwick breed of sheep has seen a bit of a comeback over the last few years as some breeders have chosen to use them in harsher conditions where commercial ewes have struggled.
With some producers turning back to these now rare breeds it is key that they are marketed correctly to ensure the consumer gets the story behind what they are purchasing. Most rare breeds produce higher quality end products, but we need to educate the public through marketing. At the end of the day, we buy food because of its taste and look. So, if the producer lets us know that it is slow matured, pasture-fed, native bred Dexter beef that has been hung for 30 days rather than British beef it will sell better. This is because it paints the picture for the consumer. The public is ever more interested in how their food is produced so now is the time to educate them.
This may sound easy but there are many fears from both the producer and consumer side when it comes to trying new things. Many rare breeds are slow to mature, which can mean they are better when sold as older meat. For example, hogget rather than lamb. But you need to educate the consumer how to handle these less common cuts. This could include providing recipe ideas or further information on the differences.
There have also been updates to the red tractor standards tightening animal welfare regulations even more. This has meant that some farmers have turned back to more traditional outdoor rearing methods. This is where traditional British breeds are in their element. This is how they are bred to thrive and can outperform commercially bred breeds in some areas. This can especially be seen in pig production as with outdoor production you simply cannot use the hybrid breeds and breeds like the Duroc and Tamworth thriving in traditional outdoor production. This new update the Red Tractor standards could mean for a resurgence in British Native breeds.
So yes, we are going to be seeing more Traditional British meats on our plate but as a producer, it is key to get yourself out there and market you, your company and most of all your products. Central to this is being clear about your ideal customer and educating them effectively.
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