Source: Waitrose

The move will see Waitrose offer up to 20 native breeds across its meat lineup

Waitrose is to further ramp up its sustainability credentials on beef by expanding its range to include more breeds that originate from the UK.

The retailer already sources 100% British beef, sourced mainly from two key breeds: Hereford and Aberdeen Angus, alongside some other specialist seasonal breds.

But its new commitment will, from this week onwards, see it widen the availability of the native breeds it sells to as many as 20. 

The move will apply to its entire beef range, including pre-packed products in the meat aisle and those sold via its butchery counters, plus beef used in ready meals, sandwiches, stocks and gravies.

They will be sourced via Waitrose’s exclusive beef provider Dovecote Park and include Red Ruby, Belted Galloway, Welsh Black and many other rare UK cattle breeds, the retailer said.

“Like the Hereford and Aberdeen Angus beef we already stock, all have been selected for specific traits – whether it’s great taste or benefits to the environment,” Waitrose added. This would give its customers “access to an even wider variety of choice, including ‘restaurant quality’ beef in our No 1 range”.

Its expanded offering also offered “great value”, it stressed, with all animals (including its entry-level Essentials beef) farmed to the same quality and higher welfare standards – “helping customers adopt less but better meat-eating habits that provide a more nutritionally balanced diet”.

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Native breeds boasted superior quality and taste, with better natural marbling due to thei less-intensive rearing practices, Waitrose said. Some specific native breeds were also better for the environment, due to them being suited to the terrain of particular farms and regions.

And they also offered improved nutritional benefits from eating a natural grass and forage diet – something key to helping them build resistance to disease, it added.

Meanwhile, the commitment offered benefits to farmers, who were given greater flexibility – enabling many to revert to the native breeds their families would have farmed many years ago.

This helped preserve their cultural identity, while also helping bring back lesser-known rare breeds to ensure breed diversity remained strong across the UK. And as Waitrose bought the whole animal, the policy offered “zero waste”, it added, giving farmers more financial security than others that sold their meat via the open market.

“This means our farmers can better invest in their future and the local environment. Beef that isn’t sold as cuts goes into ready meals or is made into burgers and meatballs.”

By diversifying its range, Waitrose could also “offer our customers exceptionally high-quality, higher-welfare beef at great value at a time when we know both price and animal welfare are so important to them”, said beef buyer Oliver Chadwyck-Healey.