By working closely with the retailer, farmers would gain an assured market and agreed financial return, said Andy Johnson, head of meat and convenience chilled foods.
He said Partnership Plus was in response to the uncertainty facing the beef sector following CAP reform.
“Decoupling could see farmers coming out, prices going up or even going down. We wanted to secure our lines of supply for fresh beef.”
The scheme means farmers revealing their full costs to Somerfield which will then agree a price allowing a margin which the farmers can then use
to reinvest in their business. “This is effectively a margin-led return, based on their costs, rather than a market-led return.”
Johnson said the retailer had worked with Hilton Meats on the initiative and some farmers had already signed up.
“We’re initially launching this through our premium So Good range in the south west and need six to seven farmers to get the right volume.”
However, he said they were talking to other suppliers outside the south west. “The response from farmers has been pragmatic - it gives them a guaranteed market for their product.”
The scheme, backed by the NFU, gives the retailer much greater involvement in the production process and also bring the farmers closer to the end market. The farmers will also be identified on pack.
Somerfield has also introduced a range of premium chicken in conjunction with the RSPCA’s Freedom Food label. The So Good Country Corn Fed Chicken comes from the Devonshire Bronze breed and is supplied by Lloyd Maunder.
Higher welfare standards mean the birds have more space and things like hay bales to perch on and plastic footballs to play with. The range, which consists of whole bird, breast and leg portions, is available nationwide in 334 stores.