Bernard Matthews Farms has named Jeff Halliwell as the company's new UK managing director.

He joins from dairy co-operative First Milk, where he was managing director of First Milk Cheese Company, the UK's largest cheese manufacturing business. In his new role he will report to group chief executive Noel Bartram, who has temporarily held the MD post alongside his CEO role for the past 18 months.

Halliwell's appointment would align the group structure with managing directors in each country and give Bernard Matthews Farms clarity of leadership in the UK, said Bartram.

"Halliwell has significant understanding of the food industry, with extensive experience of brands and own label and of agricultural business," he said. "He is commercially driven, with a clear understanding of marketing and communications. He is strong at managing change and we are confident he will help take our business forward."

Halliwell has 30 years' experience in the food and fmcg sectors. Prior to joining First Milk in 2006 he worked at Northern Foods for four years as managing director of Fox's Biscuits and was then promoted to divisional director for

bakery. He started his career with Colgate-Palmolive and has also held senior roles at Mars and infant nutrition brands Milupa and Cow & Gate.

"Bernard Matthews Farms has a really strong brand heritage and it's unique in that it is a totally integrated food chain business," said Halliwell, who takes up the role on 15 June. "The company has been through some tough times but it's taken major steps to re-establish the brand. I relish a challenge and I look forward to being part of the team that takes the business forward."

Bernard Matthews Farms is recovering from heavy sales losses following an outbreak of avian

flu in February 2007. The company also had a scare earlier this year after the virus was detected on two of its farms in Norfolk. However it was given the all-clear by Defra after it concluded the detected strain was H6N1, not the more dangerous H5N1.