Waitrose reports huge increase in interest in beef that is different' Primary producers of beef and lamb are getting their act together and shortening lines of communication with their customers. Producer groups reflecting either breed or regional branding are the order of the day with the recent Waitrose Hereford Beef label being joined by Cotswold Lamb in Somerfield stores which will also shortly feature Northern Counties meat. Among those waiting in the wings is South West Quality Meat which is talking to two supermarket groups. Waitrose has had specialist Aberdeen Angus beef on its shelves for some time but decided the time was ripe for a Hereford foray on the basis of increasing demand for the "Roast Beef of Old England". "The regionality of a product is a big thing now. And there has been a huge increase in interest among our discerning customers in beef which is different and has traditional marbling as well as all the other attributes of assurance and traceability," says group buyer David Jones. "Some consumers are even interested in the feeding ­ for example whether the animal is grass fed and how it is fed. We aim to provide the same assurances with Herefords and perhaps other breeds as we do with Aberdeen Angus. "It enables us to offer a quality product and a premium of up to 20p per kilo to our suppliers provided they meet our specification." Jim Ironside, manager of the Aberdeen Angus Producers group from its new hq in Northhampton, said: "There has been a significant growth among consumers in the recognition of native breeds which are what multiples are now looking for. But there are some snags, such as wanting Angus cattle with the same lean carcase as, say, Belgian Blue. At the end of the day it is a question of how much they want to pay." The powers behind the five-year-old Welsh Black Beef Marketing scheme have similar problems in trying to ensure the label only applies to 100% pure Welsh Black and that a consistent premium, currently around 10p per kilo, is paid to the farmer. {{MEAT }}