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Sheep Industry Queries Beef-Only Assurance Consultation

31 March 2015

ANALYSIS – Questions are being posed over why life assurance should be reviewed for UK beef cattle and not for sheep.

Leaders in the sheep industry are “critically concerned” about the logic in the argument that differentiates beef from sheep.

This is in response to Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) which, back in February, suggested renewing the requirements of the label to whole life assurance as opposed to just the final 90 days of life. 

Phil Stocker said the NSA would prefer lifetime assurance to be "pulled through" by the market

Red Tractor fears consumers will feel “mis-led” on current stipulations, describing the 90-day rule as illogical" when it opened its public consultation.

It instead proposed a cattle rearing register to cover an animal’s whole life.

For the NSA, this is questionable on two counts; firstly, why consumers expect beef to be lifetime assured and not lamb and secondly, why current residency periods beef poses a risk to the integrity of the Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) when sheep does not.

National Sheep Association chief executive, Phil Stocker, in his response to the Red Tractor Assurance consultation, drew on the similarities between beef and sheep industries when compared to the more vertically integrated pig and poultry sectors.

He said the NSA supports farm assurance as a concept, adding that lifetime assurance is inherently difficult for beef and even more so for sheep.

The NSA would prefer the RTA cater for lifetime assurance where this is required, allowing the market to "pull it through, paying a premium where it can be justified".

“In comparison with the other assured livestock sectors of poultry and pigs, beef and sheep are far less vertically integrated and this brings economic, environmental and social benefits,” said Mr Stocker.

“These core industry differences should be recognised with the aim of avoiding any move towards the vertical integration evident in the monogastric sectors.”

For pig and poultry, the RTA label requires life assurance even on breeding stock.

However, the RTA has no intention of putting sheep on the lifetime assurance agenda.

The high influx of New Zealand lamb every year, large store lamb sector and hill farming sector are reasons for this.

Addressing the RTA proposals more generally, Mr Stocker said: “We do not agree that the justification for lifetime assured beef is well enough evidenced and are concerned this may be more an internal aspiration rather than a move of necessity.

“We do not believe all the major retail chains that use the Red Tractor want to see lifetime assured beef and we would expect these retailers to understand their customers’ views and opinions.

“We are concerned about the reliance on consumer surveys that are said to demonstrate that many consumers already expect beef to be lifetime assured, or would want it to be that way, and we would want to see more detailed and open questions being asked of consumers.”

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms.

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