One of the West Country's major beef suppliers is working with farmers to produce beef that is more tender.

The Better Beef Scheme has just put the first of the meat on Tesco shelves after being launched last year. It is expected to begin in earnest in January and will also start supplying beef to McDonald's. The project is a collaboration between Blade Farming, Southern Counties Fresh Foods, Arla and farmers, with support from customers such as Tesco and McDonald's.

It aims to produce more tender and consistent eating quality meat by taking production back to first principles - when the calf is still just a sparkle in the bull's eye. Focusing on beef from the dairy herd, which accounts for 80% of Southern Counties' output, Blade has selected four top-quality bulls to inseminate members' dairy cows.

"We're using four Genus bulls, which are genetically tested for tenderness and the size of the eye muscle," said Blade Farming MD Richard Phelps. "They can produce better marbling, appearance and taste."

It allows the whole rearing system, which Blade Farming contracts out to farmers, to be controlled more closely, with a precise diet and weight gain.

"The UK is not known for good quality, consistent beef. We started this scheme to improve that," said Phelps.

A Tesco spokesman said: "It's good to see the supply chain working more closely together. It's better for the consumer, and hopefully that will drive sales."

While effort going into building the beef's tenderness are not expected to generate greater returns from buyers, Phelps said he hoped it would give Blade Farming and Southern Counties a point of difference. "Once we've got the volume under our belt, we can talk about the tenderness of the meat and its sustainability on pack."

Blade Farming is working to source feed for its animals in the south-west, so that it can make a local sourcing and low food miles claim, Phelps added.