The UK food supply chain has some of the highest food standards around the globe, providing consumers with the highest level of confidence when undertaking the weekly shop, or grabbing food whilst on the go. The ability for the supply chain to be transparent, and allow food to be fully traceable, is expected to continually increase in the future.
However, in the past there have been a small number of incidences which unfortunately are still easily recalled in consumers’ minds. In 1988 Edwina Currie stated that “most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella” following this, UK egg sales fell by 60%. In the 1990’s we were hit with BSE and some export markets are still only just opening back up to UK beef trade. Most recently was the horsemeat scandal of 2013 which saw beef sales drop by 3% - equivalent to 8,000 tonnes. Today, because of previous food scares, consumers are more inquisitive about the provenance and quality of their food along with the health and welfare of animals producing it.
Whilst the UK dairy industry has been unaffected by food scares, milk processors and retailers continue to future proof through tightening milk contract requirements, aligning them to their customers Corporate Social Responsibility policies. This includes the meeting of factors such as: milk compositional requirements; farm assurance; attendance at training; and mobility and body condition scoring.
Producers and consumers will continue to become closer and more integrated, with supermarkets using direct contracts more and more, so to provide evidence about the quality and provenance of animals. As the farming industry, we need to embrace the technology and services that allow us to become as efficient as possible and produce the products that meet customer demands.
The Holstein UK Group provides a variety of services to support members in meeting the requirements of their contract, leading to maximised returns, and assurance to the supply chain. Services include milk recording, animal health testing, such as BVD and classifying, which includes body condition scoring. As well as this, analysis using genomic technology to identify animals that have high genetic merit for health and welfare traits and those less susceptible to disease (mastitis/ lameness/ bovine TB), provides important information for future breeding decisions. The services also provide improved traceability and data to the supply chain.
A farmer registering his animals with Holstein UK can provide evidence that their dairy cows for instance are of a certain breed e.g. Holstein or Friesian, selected for higher welfare via better locomotion and udder conformation (classification) and that accurate ancestry records are maintained to avoid mating closely related animals which can be associated with less healthy offspring. Increased knowledge also allows more informed decisions to be made over breeding. The best females can be selected at a much younger age, along with the sires, so to quicken genetic gain, and build a herd that is fit for purpose.
Written by Lizzie Bonsall, Holstein Identification Quality Manager at Holstein UK