Beef cow and calf

Morrisons claims a new feeding and selective breeding programme can help deliver a 64% cut in the methane generated by beef production.

A voluntary protocol for beef production introduced by the retailer this summer had received strong interest from farmers, and would help the UK beef industry become more sustainable and competitive, said Morrisons agriculture manager Andrew Loftus.

The protocol reduces the time it takes to prepare steers for slaughter by up to 10 months. Selecting cattle with specific genetics, combined with a targeted feeding programme, improved efficiency and ensured beef reached deadweight at 14 months old rather than the industry standard 22 months, claimed Loftus. This removed the need to feed the animal through a second winter and subsequently reduced emissions.

Reduced rearing time also meant the animal did not need to be moved so often. “The average animal has 2.4 movements, but with this new protocol we are able to reduce almost all movements to just over one on average,” Loftus said. “It’s a big win for the farmer, retailer and the environment.”

Citing an economic analysis by Scotland’s Rural College, he said the reduction in rearing times delivered a 40% cost reduction for producers to an average of £397 per carcase and a noticeable improvement in meat tenderness and fat content.

“Beef production is widely seen as more environmentally damaging than other meats, but this new system means costs are reduced to an equal level to pork,” said Loftus.

Dorset farmer and NFU beef group chairman Andy Foot said Morrisons should be commended for introducing the protocol, which he said was similar to systems used by businesses such as McDonald’s.