As the future of Vion’s red meat operations in the UK hangs in the balance, pork and bacon giant Danish Crown is ramping up its presence in the British meat sector with a move into beef.

Danish Crown is best known for supplying large volumes of pigmeat products to the UK through own label and its Danepak brand.

To date, it has only ever supplied small volumes of non-premium cow beef to the UK, but is now looking to import large volumes of premium beef from Denmark and Germany to this country.

UK sales manager Allan Munch Hansen said the move was a “natural progression” for Danish Crown. “We have a solid production of 600,000 head per year and a very good reputation for our high-quality beef in Europe, so the UK is the next obvious market to move into,” he said.

The company will initially focus on supplying to wholesale and foodservice but plans to go into retail in due course. “We have set no boundaries and will eventually explore all opportunities,” said Hansen.

Many of Danish Crown’s pork and bacon customers also bought beef products, so it made commercial sense to exploit that by offering beef, he added.

Hansen would not be drawn on how much beef Danish Crown ultimately wanted to export to the UK, but said the company expected its UK beef operations to “make a significant impact in the market and drive through some substantial numbers.”

Danish Crown’s extension into beef comes as Dutch-owned meat giant Vion announced its retreat from the UK meat industry, with all its operations to be sold off.

However, Hansen stressed Danish Crown’s interest in beef in the UK had nothing to do with Vion’s departure.

“I wish we could have predicted this, but no, it was purely coincidence,” he said.