produced for the Meat and Livestock Commission by The Grocer Keeping up with organic demand The space allotted to organic products within retail outlets is growing, with many of the leading multiples putting their weight behind the concept. But how are our organic red meats performing and is supply keeping up with demand? According to Archie Sains, industry development advisor for the MLC, the demand for organic beef through the independent butchers and multiples continues to far exceed supply and some of the shortfall is being sourced from abroad. While availability of British beef is increasing, progress is slow because of the two year organic conversion period. Current supplies are about 4,500 carcases a year, which is up from just under 3,000 last year. Sains said: "We are seeing an increasing number of farmers converting, but this takes time. It is realistic to expected that there will be a continuing deficit of organic beef from UK sources for at least the next five years." The situation with organic lamb is somewhat different. Between 25,000 and 30,000 organic lambs will be available this year and the lower costs of conversion is resulting in an increasing number of farmers turning to organic production. "We are becoming self-sufficient when it comes to organic lamb supplies," Sains explained. "There are no imports and there is a belief within the industry that we will reach a point of equilibrium within the next two to three years, where demand will fully match supply. "However, we are finding that the price gap between organic and conventional lamb in widening, especially during the autumn when supplies are plentiful. "This is something the industry as a whole needs to find ways to address. For example, better information on availability of supplies would be helpful, so that retailers can actively promote when lamb plentiful. Work on grazing and feeding regimes also needs to be carried out which will help extend the production period." Within the pigmeat sector, 12,000 pigs will be available this year, but fewer farmers are converting than in the other species sectors. This again is due to the high conversion costs. Sains said: "Consumer interest is growing and we expect demand to increase at a steady rate, but organic meat still only represents 1-2% of the market. "Supplies are limited and the industry must take into account the conversion times and premiums needed by the producers if production is to be sustained in the long term. The industry must plan in the medium term. Instant results cannot be expected. "One of the next steps will be to procure supplies of raw materials at realistic prices for the processing industry to turn into added value products. "When that is achieved manufacturers too will be able to play a greater role in developing the organic meats sector." {{MLC }}