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Farming

Asda and Lidl make cage-free chicken pledge

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Hens: A momentous moment

Hens: A momentous moment

TWO MORE supermarkets have pledged to stop sourcing eggs from caged hens by 2025. On Friday (Jul 29), Asda and Lidl announced that they will phase out cage eggs within the next nine years, echoing commitments announced in recent weeks from Tesco, Morrisons and French catering giant, Sodexo.

Asda has come under particular pressure, since its US parent company, Walmart, made the pledge for its North American stores.

On Friday, Ryan McDonnell, Commercial Director at Lidl UK, commented: “As a responsible retailer, we are committed to ensuring that the highest standards are met and maintained across our supply chain. Our pledge to work closely with our UK suppliers to phase out the sale of shell eggs from caged hens also underlines our understanding of our customers’ changing expectations, as shoppers increasingly search for responsibly sourced high-quality British produce at the best price.”

Reacting to the retailers’ animal welfare commitments earlier in the week, the NFU said that supermarkets must give their egg suppliers more clarity on timelines and – importantly – what will replace current production systems. Tesco said in its announcement that eggs from barn systems or free range will replace its caged eggs. NFU said the decision on the part of retailers ‘will force the egg industry into its biggest change since the introduction of the enriched cage system in 2012; a move which then cost farmers in excess of £400m’.

However, The Co-operative stopped selling caged eggs in 2008, Sainsbury’s stopped selling them in 2009, and stopped using them as ingredients in its products in 2012 (Lidl’s pledge only covers shell eggs on sale in its stores).

In a statement announcing the switch, Lidl said it will work closely with all its egg suppliers to ensure that its pledge will have no detrimental effect on their businesses, noting that the supermarket already supported British egg producers to make a significant investment to transition to enriched caged systems in 2012.

15 million birds are housed in cages in the UK, supplying an estimated 40% of eggs sold in supermarkets.

Commenting on the announcements, Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming, which has been campaigning on caged eggs with partners in the United States, said: “Today marks a truly momentous moment for egg laying hens. Asda and Lidl have joined the Cage Free retailers. We have been working alongside Asda and Lidl; advising on the benefits of going cage free on their whole shell egg supplies.

“These announcements are further proof that we are moving ever closer to a cage free future for egg laying hens. I am delighted to say that a cage free day is dawning.”

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Farming

Worshipful Company of Farmers reunite at Bluestone

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A DELEGATION from the Worshipful Company of Farmers has visited Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire to meet with its CEO and a former dairy farmer, William McNamara.

Bluestone welcomed the 35th Advanced Farm Management Course of the Worshipful Company of Farmers for their annual reunion.

The Worshipful Company of Farmers is a Livery Company linked to the Livery Companies of London and its purpose is to inspire, encourage and develop excellence in the management of British Agriculture.

Since its formation in 1946 it has promoted farming to the nation, developed professionalism within the farming industry, and supported a wide range of charitable organisations.

After a visit to Pembrokeshire’s Puffin Produce in the morning, the group visited Bluestone to speak to Mr McNarama, a former dairy farmer, to gain further insight into the creation of the holiday resort on what was previously his farm.

Speaking about the visit, Mr McNamara said: “I was greatly honoured to have had the opportunity to host the 35th group of the Worshipful Company of Farmers at Bluestone. With my roots firmly in farming, it was a pleasure to share Bluestone’s story and my own experience of farming diversification.”

Meurig Raymond added: “To see at first hand the amazing development of the Bluestone Resort over the past 13 years was a great privilege and a highlight of our trip to Pembrokeshire.

“The group were most impressed by the Bluestone story; the incredible amount of investment into a world class holiday resort, and the sheer passion and enthusiasm which William and his team portrayed during our tour.

“There is no doubt that Bluestone is a real jewel in the future of tourism in Pembrokeshire and many of our group indicated that they will be returning with their families to enjoy the wonderful facilities at the resort.”

William spoke to the group about growing up working on the farm, located in Southwest Wales, and how he believed he was destined for a career in agriculture. After attending agricultural college, expanding the family’s milking herd and harvesting Pembrokeshire New Potatoes, it was the introduction of milk quotas that first encouraged him to diversity into leisure.

Bluestone is now one of the largest tourism operators in Wales, welcoming 160,000 staying visitors to the resort each year with an average annualised occupancy of 97%.

The resort contributes in excess of £17m per annum directly into the local community through the supply chain and payroll, and as a Green Key accredited business is committed to sustainable tourism, most recently banning the sale of plastic water bottles on the resort in partnership with Refill Wales. Over 700 people are employed in permanent, long-term positions across the site.

The 35th group, led by Meurig Raymond who is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Farmers, were treated to a full guided tour of the resort by CEO, William McNamara which included Serendome – where they enjoyed afternoon tea – and the newly opened HIVE activity centre. They also met other Bluestone team members including Director of Operations, Rebecca Rigby.

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Farming

Pembrokeshire farmers put spotlight on trade deals and climate change in discussions with local MP

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(left to right): FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz, Stephen Crabb MP, FUW Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams

FARMERS from Pembrokeshire have put the spotlight on industry concerns around the free trade deal with Australia and climate change when they met with local MP Stephen Crabb. Hosting the visit was Farmers’ Union of Wales Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams, who farms at Upper Swmbarch, Letterston near Haverfordwest.

The farm extends to approximately 94 acres, with the majority of the land rented from Pembrokeshire County Council, and 3.5 acres owned. Upper Swmbarch is home to a 50 Suckler cow herd, made up of Limousin and British Blue cows. The calves are reared with some sold as stores, some fattened and some kept as replacements. Gerwyn Williams keeps a closed herd and uses AI. Tack sheep are kept on the land in the winter.  The land is mainly down to grass, but around 3 hectares of arable silage and 3 hectares of forage rape are grown each year to feed the livestock.

The farm has participated in the Glastir Small Grants scheme, which included planting new hedgerows in a number of locations across the farm and the holding has also previously participated in the Preseli ESA scheme, Tir Gofal and Glastir Entry.

Leading the discussions on the farm walk, Mr Williams said: “We are very concerned about the free trade deal with Australia. There will be major negative impacts for our farmers in Wales. It is absolutely essential that the UK Government ensures there are break clauses in the deal to allow for it to be reviewed. We need the UK Government to stand with the farming sector and help develop export opportunities for our farmers here at home.”

Union officials further highlighted concerns around beef prices and uncertainty within the industry as to what would happen as covid restrictions continue to be lifted and more people begin to eat out. Farmgate prices declined significantly during the early stages of the pandemic given the loss of demand from the UK foodservice sector for premium products such as steaks and cheese, and yet 12 months on, the sector is witnessing soaring lamb and beef prices following a shift in reliance on local food producers and UK sourcing.

(left to right):  FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz, Stephen Crabb MP, FUW Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams and FUW Deputy President ian Rickman

“While the domestic foodservice sector is evidently an essential outlet for Welsh produce, it is equally a particularly price sensitive outlet through which large volumes of foreign imports are sold. The FUW is concerned that if trade policies allow for cheap food that undermines our world-leading standards to be imported into the UK, the foodservice sector could become an even larger outlet for such food given that the transparency and pressure to source domestic produce is not applied to the same extent as it is with retailers,” added Gerwyn Williams. 

Mr Williams added that whilst the proportion of local produce procured by some public bodies has increased over recent years, there remain significant numbers of administrations which fail to support Welsh agriculture, choosing instead to accept produce from countries which often fail to meet the high production standards which are a requirement in Wales. 

“The nature of some procurement contracts means that what appears to be a commitment to procuring Welsh and British produce within procurement rules can be circumvented by carefully worded clauses.

“The impact of Covid-19 on food supply chains in many parts of the world has served as a stark reminder of the dangers of relying on food imports. Domestic policies and trade deals which undermine sustainable food produced by family farms in Wales subsequently place food security, food standards and therefore farmgate prices at risk. Governments must recognise the sheer importance of maintaining and supporting food production, security and standards,” he said.

Addressing concerns around climate change, Union officials  discussed how targets are set by the Government and how the UK and Welsh industry is portrayed negatively in the climate change debate. FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “Many of the facts and figures used in the conversation around climate change relate to non-UK systems of production. 

“Here in Pembrokeshire ,and across Wales, farmers are adopting climate friendly systems of producing food and looking after the land for example through minimal or no till cropping, grass based production systems, planting of hedgerows, and habitat management. We can’t just get rid of the livestock, or drastically reduce it. Livestock play an essential role in looking after the land. Many habitats have to be grazed in order for them to flourish. 

“Our dairy industry is also doing their bit and many dairy farmers are already undertaking carbon footprint calculations and producing nutrient and biodiversity plans as part of their milk contracts. Farming must be seen as the solution to the climate problem and not its root cause.”

Given the many obstacles farmers now face, including the NVZ regulations and bovine TB, Union officials further stressed that recruiting young people into the agriculture sector and sourcing labour was becoming increasingly difficult.

FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz added: “Recruitment seems to be a common problem in relation to vocational occupations that needs to be addressed. 

“I would like to thank Stephen Crabb for meeting with us again and discussing so many issues that trouble the industry. We will continue to work with the UK and Welsh Government to ensure we have thriving, sustainable family farms here in Wales for generations to come.”

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Farming

Economic value of red meat sector rises

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THE VALUE of the iconic beef, lamb and pork sectors to the Welsh economy rose in 2020, as consumers turned to local, sustainable, quality food during the COVID pandemic, according to analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).New figures from the Welsh Government ‘Aggregate Agricultural Output and Income’ report show that the total value of agricultural output in Wales for 2020 is projected to stand at £1.7billion – a 6.2% (or £99 million) increase on the provisional figure for 2019.


Cattle and sheep account for 44% of this total at £750million; the highest proportion recorded since 2016. The agricultural output value for Wales’s pig sector also increased (by 34.3% or £2 million) to a value of £8 million.
The figures reflect the strength of the livestock sector in Wales and sit in contrast to Total Income From Farming (TIFF) figures for the UK as a whole newly released by Defra. Although the TIFF figures are a different form of measuring farm production, the UK data concurs that the livestock sector has had a strong year, but in other parts of Britain, this was more than offset by poor harvests in the arable sector.


Demand for beef and lamb have been strong in the domestic retail market since the immediate aftermath of the first COVID lockdown in spring 2020. After initial market volatility, marketing campaigns by HCC and other bodies encouraged consumers to recreate restaurant meals at home.


Over the past 12 months, domestic retail sales of lamb and beef have trended consistently higher, with spending on lamb 20% higher than the previous year. Sales at independent high street butchers are also strong.


Research shows many demographic groups, including families with children, buying more beef and lamb than previously, and turning to quality home-grown produce.


HCC Data Analyst Glesni Phillips said, “The strong demand for red meat from the domestic consumer has helped drive market prices for beef and lamb at Welsh livestock markets in the second half of 2020 and into the early months of 2021.


“It’s no surprise, therefore, to see that the overall value of the industry is projected to have grown. We have seen inflation in the costs on farmers, which offset some of the gains from improved market price; however, it’s heartening to see consumers’ support for quality Welsh produce.“Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef remain key drivers of our rural economy, and given their excellent brand reputation, they act as flagship products for the growing Welsh food and drink sector.”Further analysis of the aggregate output and income figures for Welsh farms are available in HCC’s latest monthly market bulletin.

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