The Co-operative Food has launched five farming groups for farmers supplying its own-brand fresh British meat and poultry.
In a move to further support British farmers and agriculture, the groups will cement relationships with producers, deliver a continued investment in quality, and provide shoppers with a more consistent and transparent supply chain, the retailer said. The five groups will also help maintain The Co-operative’s strict animal welfare policies and encourage long-term investment and improvements to farm efficiencies, training and sustainability.
All The Co-operative’s own-brand fresh standard chicken, fresh standard pork, Hampshire breed pork, Hereford/Aberdeen Angus premium beef and premium Cambrian lamb will now be sourced from these groups. The cost of setting up and running the farming groups will have no impact on the price of products to customers, the Co-operative said.
The farming groups are led by a number of The Co-operative’s key suppliers for meat and poultry.
The structure of the groups is based on five pillars of achievement, two of which are mandatory. All farms selected will need to meet strict and sustained health, welfare and quality standards for the first pillar, which will be measured and monitored with agricultural performance indicators and regular audits. Farmers will also attend events with other farmers and representatives from The Co-operative as part of the Co-operative brand pillar, in which attendees can discuss and exchange best practice. Farms that meet the two mandatory pillars will be classed as Bronze farms.
The further three pillars will represent Sustainability (which includes alternative energy and energy conservation), the Environment (which includes carbon footprint self assessments) and Ethical and Training (which includes apprenticeships and memberships to professional bodies, such as the PIPR).
As farms work with The Co-operative to progress through the pillars to become Silver or Gold farms, they will receive a premium from The Co-operative, and further incentives such as inclusion in bulk feed schemes and medicine groups, which may result in cheaper and better deals for these items. Farms will need to meet four pillars to be Silver, and all five to be Gold.
The beef farming group will provide The Co-operative Truly Irresistible beef products, which will be sourced from Hereford cattle for stores in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and from Aberdeen Angus cattle for Scottish stores.
The other four farmer groups cover Truly Irresistible Cambrian lamb, Truly Irresistible outdoor-reared Hampshire breed pork, standard pork and standard chicken. The farmers selected for the groups will be passionate about British meat and poultry and committed to The Co-operative’s standards for quality, health and welfare.
To further improve and demonstrate best practice, The Co-operative will also identify a number of concept or model farms from within the farming groups, once they have become established.
Steve Murrells, chief executive for The Co-operative Food, said: “The Co-operative has always been a strong supporter of the UKfarming industry, sourcing and promoting fresh meat and poultry from animals reared in the UK wherever possible. The farming groups offer a joined-up development approach and long-term commitment to these supply chains. The aim is to deliver both a profitable return for farmers and high-quality, traceable, fresh British meat and poultry for our customers.
“These farming groups will help further strengthen our relationship with producers and give our customers even greater confidence in the provenance of our fresh own-brand meat and poultry. Additional incentives for farmers include bulk feed and medicine groups, training and apprenticeships – so the groups provide a win-win situation for all.”
NFU President Peter Kendall said: “News that The Co-operative is launching five farming groups for its beef, pork, poultry and lamb suppliers is a positive step for the industry. Producer groups like these foster stronger relationships with the farmers involved and ensure that retailers are able to provide more consistent products for consumers, which in turn, guarantees more British food on more British plates.
“It is important that retailers continue to ensure that these initiatives are applied across other farming sectors, including fresh produce. Horticulture is one of the most important categories, visible and profitable categories for retailers and the NFU will be working with retailers, including The Co-operative, to ensure that these values are upheld across all UKfarming sectors.”