beef cow

The National Farmers Union (NFU) and British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) have launched a voluntary code of practice for the beef industry, designed to improve transparency between processors and livestock producers.

The code - introduced this week - follows proposals first aired at last year’s beef summit in response to a collapse in farmgate prices.

The code commits individual processor signatories to being open and clear about their company’s terms and conditions of trading with signatories agreeing to give 12 weeks’ notice of any changes in terms and conditions, but does not cover prices.

To date, six processors have signed up to the code: ABP Food Group, Dovecote Park, Kepak Group, Randall Parker Foods, 2 Sisters Food Group, and Woodheads, which is owned by Morrisons. However, the likes of Dunbia and Dawn Meats are yet to commit to the code.

The BMPA and NFU urged cattle processors across the UK to sign up to the code, regardless of whether they were BMPA members, and suggested other parties within the beef supply chain, such as retailers, food service companies and renderers should “operate according to the principles and in the spirit of the code” in order to minimise volatility and uncertainty in the beef supply chain.

“This is a welcome step in the right direction as we continue to seek more openness and transparency in the supply chain,” said Charles Sercombe, NFU Livestock Board Chairman. He added that the potential stability the code could bring was “critical” in allowing producers to plan ahead and market their cattle “without sudden or unexpected changes to conditions of sale”.

Processors signing up to the code would display recognition of the need for “constructive relations with beef producers in order to improve the efficiency of the beef supply chain”.

The dairy industry agreed to the introduction of a voluntary code of practice in 2012 in response to that year’s dairy crisis. It covers contractual relations between farmers and processors, including contract notice periods, however, unlike the terms of the new beef code, farmer co-operatives are exempt from the dairy code’s 30 day notice period.

A spokeswoman for Dunbia said it welcomed the “spirit behind the introduction of the new code”. However, as it was not party to its drafting, it would now have to “consider it in detail to ensure that it meets Dunbia’s existing standards and practices”.