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Farming

FUW welcomes Aldi announcement

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(L-R): Aldi’s Buying Director, Will Barstow; FUW Managing Director Alan Davies; FUW Glamorgan County Chairman Ritchie Walker; Environment and Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths; NFU Cymru’s Jonathan Huntley and Wyn Evans

(L-R): Aldi’s Buying Director, Will Barstow; FUW Managing Director Alan Davies; FUW Glamorgan County Chairman Ritchie Walker; Environment and Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths; NFU Cymru’s Jonathan Huntley and Wyn Evans

THE ANNOUNCEMENT made by retailer Aldi to introduce PGI branded Welsh Lamb products in 29 stores in South and West Wales has been welcomed by the Farmers’ Union of Wales, but the Union says more commitment is needed.

The FUW has long urged supermarkets to commit to the procurement of Welsh and British lamb and beef, as well as dairy products, and to ensure prices paid by suppliers or through direct contracts are such that confidence is revived to the extent which is now needed.

FUW Managing Director Alan Davies, who attended the official launch of the product lines on Thursday, October 13 in Cardiff, said: “It is great news that Aldi is joining a wide range of retailers who have already made a commitment to sourcing Welsh PGI lamb and beef. However, we need that commitment to be extended to all retailers, across all stores and producers need to get paid a fair price with fair contracts.

“What is worth noting as well is that we have a huge market here at home for our produce – in light of our exit from the EU, we must make every effort to promote Welsh lamb, beef and dairy products to our home consumers, who offer an addition to export markets.

“The commitment made by Aldi should also serve as a reminder to the Welsh and UK Government to start planning for more sustainable and supportive public procurement policies. Our schools, hospitals, armed forces and all other public services deserve access to the top quality produce that we grow here in Wales, and our farmers and rural economies deserve recognition for what they produce.”

Alan Davies added: “I am renewing our call for immediate action to initiate draft legislation which will mandate the procurement of British produce by the UK public sector and urge those supermarkets and food-outlets who have not made the commitment to British and Welsh produce to do so without delay. This will support rather than spite the sectors which lie at the heart of our rural economies.”

Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman, said: “This commitment by Aldi to stock PGI Welsh Lamb is very welcome news for the livestock sector in a time of uncertainty ahead of Brexit negotiations. We know we have a great product and story to tell and that our PGI Welsh lamb is the best in the world, so it is encouraging that Aldi has recognised this quality.

“Hopefully this will be the start of a long term relationship between the retailer and Welsh lamb producers and we must aim to build on this positive relationship long into the future.”

Will Barstow, Fresh Meat Buying Director at Aldi UK, said: “We are delighted to be introducing five new Welsh lamb products to our existing fresh lamb category as part of our commitment to farmers and local sourcing. Fresh lamb is a versatile product that can be used all year round and we are confident that the new lines will prove popular with shoppers at our stores in south Wales.

“It’s vital for the Welsh red meat industry that our produce is available in all sectors of the retail industry and Aldi’s market segment has seen remarkable growth, especially in Wales where market share is now over 10%,” explained HCC’s Communications Lead Owen Roberts. “Statistics from market research specialists Kantar Worldpanel show the volume of lamb sold by Aldi increased by nearly 14% over the past year and increasing numbers of their consumers are buying more fresh produce.

“HCC works in partnership, and is in regular dialogue with, all UK retailers and many took part in the summer 2016 HCC-led Welsh lamb campaign. Aldi now joins other multiple retailers like Asda, Co-op, J. Sainsbury, M&S, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose in stocking branded PGI Welsh lamb products,” said Owen. “In addition, quality Welsh Lamb products are also available in many independent retailers and at over 300 members of HCC’s Butchers’ Club,” he added.

Many multiple retailers were emphasising their commitment to quality local produce in their advertising. “This resonates with research carried out by HCC at supermarkets over the summer, which showed that nearly 80% of shoppers were keen to buy more Welsh goods. Welsh lamb is an iconic product whose quality reflects the outstanding natural environment in which it is produced,” said Owen.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “Food and drink is a Welsh success story with Welsh lamb at the forefront of our range. I am grateful to Hybu Cig Cymru for all of the work it has carried out to promote this iconic Welsh product.

“I am delighted Aldi will stock premium Welsh lamb in 29 of its stores in South and West Wales. I’m sure it will prove to be hugely popular with customers. Hopefully, this will encourage Aldi to extend the initiative to more of its stores nationwide, which would provide a significant boost to the Welsh lamb trade.”

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Farming

Local farmer sentenced for animal welfare offences

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On 6 January 2021, at Aberystwyth Justice Centre the Magistrates passed sentence on Mr. Toby Holland of Maesgwyn, Blaenporth after he was found guilty in his absence of 10 charges relating to Animal Welfare and Animal By-Products offences.

Following the trial on 3 February 2020, a court warrant was issued for Mr. Toby Holland’ arrest in connection with these offences, and he was arrested by Police in December 2020.

The District Judge, in the trial held on 3 February 2020  heard that Animal Welfare Officers of the Public Protection team visited the farm on the 29 January 2019 and found a number of animal welfare issues. A sheep was found to be lying on its back unable to move and it was evident that it had been there for some time. Despite requesting that Mr. Holland seek veterinary assistance for the animal, a visit the following day had found that he failed to seek treatment for the animal and left it to die. He was found guilty for the unnecessary suffering of this sheep.

The Animal Welfare Officers found a barn containing 19 pigs. On seeing the officers the pigs were shrieking for food. The pigs were very thin and kept in an accumulation of muck with no dry lying area available. Within the pen were two dead pigs to which the live pigs had access. A post-mortem of one of the dead pigs found that the animal had likely died of starvation after finding no fat reserves remaining in the carcass.

The Veterinarian from the Animal and Plant Health Agency who attended the farm concluded that both the dead and live pigs had been suffering unnecessarily, and Mr. Holland was found guilty of these offences. He was also found guilty of failing to meet the needs of the animals, by failing to provide a dry lying area for the pigs.

The visit on 29 January 2019 also found a number of sheep carcasses strewn across the fields. It was clear that that they had been there for some time, and the live sheep had access to the same field. The District Judge found Mr. Holland guilty of failing to dispose of the carcasses in accordance with the requirements of a notice served under The Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (Wales) Regulations 2014.

A follow up visit on 30 May 2019 found the pigs were kept in a field where they had access to plastic bags, metal sheeting with sharp edges, and animal bones and skulls. These items could cause harm to pigs, and he was found guilty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 of not providing a suitable environment for the pigs. Tthere were sheep carcasses in the fields, that Mr. Holland failed to collect and dispose in accordance with legal requirements. He was found guilty of a further offence under the Animal By-Products Regulations.

He was sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment in total for the offences, and he was issued a disqualification order for 2 years from keeping any animals. The Local Authority were awarded £750 costs.

Following sentencing, Cllr Gareth Lloyd, Cabinet member for Public Protection Services, said: “The majority of farmers in Ceredigion have excellent farming practices, that ensures the highest standards of animal welfare. Unfortunately we must deal with a minority who for whatever reason fail to meet basic legal standards. I wish to thank the partner agencies who assisted the authority in the investigation, and the officers for their hard work in handling a difficult case.”

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Farming

First week of life is key

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IMPROVED new-born lamb and calf survival rates not only result in increased income, but also improve welfare, reduce disease, and reduce environmental footprint, according to the results of major GB-wide research.

The Neonatal Survival Project, funded by AHDB, Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) in the sheep and beef sector, was established to study the key factors which could drive further improvements in farm efficiency and maximise animal welfare.

Key findings show that the majority of lamb and calf losses occur in the first seven days after birth, with over 98 per cent of lamb and 90 per cent of calf losses occurring in this period.

The findings – and the recommendations for new practices to be adopted on farms – will be discussed at two major webinars. The first will be held on 5 January for vets followed by an event on 21 January for farmers. To register visit ahdb.org.uk/events.

A spokesperson on behalf of the three levy boards said: “A survey and interviews were used to understand motivations and barriers for change. While many farmers were aware of good practice industry advice on new-born survival, it was not consistently followed. This was particularly true with respect to colostrum management and genetic selection.

“Farmers were confident in their abilities to improve survival rates, but tended to underestimate new-born losses on their farm relative to national averages. A cultural stigma around losses limits farmers in discussing their experiences with peers, and in some cases, even with their vet.

“The research also discovered that losses can be highly variable between years; the importance of accurate record keeping also became apparent. While most suckler farmers have access to reliable records, a significant number of sheep farmers do not consistently record their data.”

With global pressures to reduce antibiotic use, this study found that a significant proportion of beef and sheep farmers were able to manage infectious diseases without purchasing critically important antibiotics. Preventive antibiotic use was reduced or withdrawn successfully on some farms, while oral antibiotic treatment at birth made no difference to lamb outcomes in an experimental study within this project.

The study also demonstrated that good long-term protein status in late pregnancy results in reduced lamb losses between scanning and 24 hours old.

Twin born lambs with a low serum antibody (IgG) concentration were more likely to have poorer growth rates. As shown by previous studies, poor energy balance in late pregnancy results in a low lamb IgG. This indicates that lambs born to ewes in negative energy balance are at increased risk of absorbing insufficient colostrum antibodies from the ewe.

The project is now complete, although work is ongoing to enable the implementation of a sustainable youngstock survival plan across Great Britain.

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Farming

Consumers ‘sleepwalking’ away from meat

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A LACK of inspiration, rather than a conscious reaction to trends such as veganism, was at the heart of the pre-Covid-19 reduction in meat, fish and poultry consumption, new AHDB research has suggested.
Before the pandemic struck, some 7.8 million (35%) households in Great Britain had unwittingly purchased less meat, fish and poultry products, according to AHDB analysis of Kantar data [52 w/e 26 January]. This figure accounted for 99% of the 1.3% volume drop in retail sales.

However, the twenty per cent of households which had at least one ‘conscious meat reducer’ accounted for just 1% of the losses, with the majority citing other reasons for reducing consumption.

The unconscious reducers were said by the report to mostly be of retirement age and living with fewer people. They were found to be much less likely to experiment with cooking or refer to themselves as a ‘foodie’, preferring more traditional dishes. They were also found to be unsatisfied with shopping for meat, with just 29% of the unconscious reducer group saying they enjoyed browsing meat aisles and only 31% find them to be inspiring.

The report urged the meat industry to focus its efforts on winning this group back as they offered a better route to boosting meat consumption than conscious reducers.

“How unconscious reducers think and feel about meat isn’t any different to those people who are actually increasing their meat consumption – they’re not turning away on purpose so there is a chance to re-engage them with the category,” explained one of the report’s authors, AHDB senior retail insight manager Kim Malley.

“The biggest opportunity is at the point of purchase. The key thing the report highlights is those people are wanting a better in-store experience. There could be simple messaging in-store to remind people why they enjoy meat, give them a bit of inspiration and remind them it’s versatile and convenient.”

Malley added the meat-free category is “excelling” in innovation and convenience through ready-meal and marinated NPD – products which the report said the meat industry had invested less heavily in.

She also praised the packaging of meat alternatives, which tended to be “very colourful and brought recipes and flavours to life” for shoppers, and urged the meat industry to do its own innovation in these areas in a bid to win back “distracted” consumers.

According to the report, distractions included negative media coverage of the meat industry and the prominence of plant-based ranges in stores.

But in positive news for the sector, it found the coronavirus pandemic had seen sales volumes of meat, fish and poultry rise 8% year-on-year in the 52 weeks to 6 September. Unconscious reducers were discovered to have accounted for 35% of this uplift.

Malley said meat “benefited massively” from the rise in in-home occasions this year and consumers thinking more about their food choices. “It has highlighted that it’s quite easy to re-engage people,” she said.

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