34 CALF News • February | March 2022 • B eing the birthplace of some of the world’s most commonly used breeds such as Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and Shorthorn is a great source of pride for the United Kingdom. These breeds have and continue to have a huge influence in beef breeding and, just as important, are also established as recognized “brands” with consumers across many countries. In the United Kingdom, every major supermarket or established meat supplier has a two-tier beef range with nearly all having Angus (known as Aberdeen Angus in Europe) as the breed in their “premium” range. One of our big four supermarkets has Shorthorn as their superior range, while Hereford is gaining more popularity and is commanding a growing premium in Ireland in particular. To gain the Angus premium, which is worth $80 to $100 on a 770-lb. carcass, they need to be sired by a registered Angus and are commonly DNA tested to verify this. With the increase in beef-sired calves from dairy cows, an ever-increasing percentage of the Angus premium range is being produced from integrated supply chains. This type of supply model has the wonderful attribute of consistency of supply, coupled with a greater control of genetics and management. You can clearly see the attraction of this approach How Will the Type of Cattle We Produce Change the Future? to the major supermarket, having secured both the milk supply, with the dairy farm’s prodigy also going into its integrated supply of beef. This is has become the preferred model in our new world of net-zero targets. The question that strikes you though, when you stand back from the beef producer angle is – Is suckler-produced beef now just a standard range product? When using our “native” sires on suckler cows, they will achieve the same premium as from a dairy base but, other than the localized butcher or farm shop, adding value is very difficult. When COVID hit the world nearly two years ago, a really surprising thing happened – the food service sector completely closed down, resulting in an increased demand and a record price for beef in the United Kingdom. It defied logic to most, but supermarkets sold more core proteins, with people cooking and creating meals at home rather than purchasing prepared meals on their way home from work. It exposed the fact that, unbeknownst to the consumer, mainly imported beef was being used by the catering sector, which was nearly always being sold as local Angus! Looking forward, the future of at least the top-tier beef product will have an environmental theme rather than breed. The strategists and marketeers will be looking into the minds of their consumers, weighing up, will an Angus on the pack get it picked for the weekend treat or a lower carbon stamp be the deal changer? Ultimately, all aspects of agriculture will be faced with new targets to meet, and beef production has received more unwanted headlines than any other agricultural sector. This attack can’t be ignored, and we must have a robust, fact-based response that shares a collective approach from the whole industry. Our promotional bodies that collect slaughter levies and limited government support have always promoted the health benefits and enjoyment of eating beef. Farmers have been frustrated that imported beef gets pulled along with this, raising a serious issue when promoting traceability, which is such a high priority in UK-produced supply. When you see all the plant-based promotion during “Veganuary,” we all have to be pleased about the substantial quantity of meat still being consumed. It’s a good reminder, you have to work hard to be the nation’s favorite meal. Bearing all this is mind, we come right back to which breeds will have a future? The beef sires used in dairy are dominated by the Angus (and Angus composites) and the Belgian Blue, which both have the short gestation lengths critical in dairy production. The picture is different in suckler production, with landscape and farming practices dictating what type of animal and breed is used. In this area of reducing suckler cows, all breeds have to fight to survive with one breed’s gain coming from another’s decline. Breed societies will require clear, forward strategies now more than ever before. The breeds that focus on net feed efficiency and ease of management, and move forward using science through breed values and correctly selecting myostatins will have the greater chance of surviving and thriving.  By David MacKenzie Contributing Editor