British Meat Partner

The Smithfield Forum

Website: royalsmithfieldclub.co.uk

The Smithfield Forum was launched in January 2019 at a meeting led by the Royal Smithfield Club held at The House of Lords.  Speakers from all sectors of the British red meat supply chain were present, with over 70 delegates comprising of producers, processors, levy boards, farming unions and organisations representing every sector within the industry.

The launch in January 2019 came as a result of extensive consultation across the whole industry which identified wide support for a united voice.  Its purpose was to act as a neutral body to bring together the diverse organisations in the British red meat industry, to debate the challenges facing the sector and establish actions to be taken by different bodies for the benefit and long-term security of red meat production in the United Kingdom.

This led to the creation of the Forum under the leadership of John Dracup in his role of Industry Strategy Director for The Royal Smithfield Club.

Remit

Four key areas of activity were identified and agreed for future action:

  • A more joined-up approach from the entire industry in promoting the British Red Meat brand, creating  a clear message emphasising the unique position of UK livestock farming.
  • To encourage the publishing of scientific work demonstrating the carbon/environmental footprint of red meat production in the United Kingdom as opposed to the global figures currently used.
  • To seek from the levy boards and other bodies what work, if any, has been completed to support the economic benefit of grazing livestock for environmental enhancement.
  • To encourage wider and more efficient promotion of red meat to the consumer, focusing on the UK’s leading position in animal welfare, production standards, healthy eating, environment, sustainability and eating quality.

Achievements

Notable progress has been made by The Forum, including developing and encouraging significant promotional activity across the industry, driven by the farming unions, meat trade organisations, lobbying organisations and the levy boards. This work has started to raise the profile of the importance and significance of UK agriculture, but considerably more needs to be achieved.

Through no fault of their own, the British public are generally uninformed about our industry and need to be encouraged to understand why British food production is so important, not just as fuel for our bodies, but the wider impact on human health, the countryside and the diverse landscape created by farming. This must also include an understanding of the importance of our industry for the wider economy and the British environment, together with the role that the food processing industry serves and where retailers fit within the bigger picture.

It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure these messages are constantly being offered in an engaging and informative format, which will create a demand for accurate information, in turn creating understanding and support for our activities, as well as our products.

The Forum has also engaged with all the major retailers to establish a plan for their involvement in addressing the challenges, in particular that of communicating a clear industry message to their customers. Again, there is clear agreement and commitment to a forward plan to be coordinated by the Forum.

The Smithfield Forum has been very successful in pulling together the entire Red Meat supply chain in gaining a consensus that something needs to be done, and actions have been taken by many organisations.

We identified the need with the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) for the Smithfield Forum to join in hosting the Rethink Conference, originally scheduled for March 2020. Our next step is to coordinate discussions across the whole red meat sector, to ensure that our work is focused and current. Our immediate priorities are that of human health, the environment and animal welfare, in a national and global context. Add to this the rapid approach towards 1st January 2021, with our final exit from the EU and all that this move may bring for UK agriculture, then the need for clear and positive communication is very clear.

A number of industry stakeholders and retailers have taken out Corporate Membership, with other individuals becoming Independent Members  to support the Forum’s work. 

The impact of covid19 through 2020 has delayed a number of planned actions, including the Rethink Conference, but a new timetable for 2021 has been created to re-ignite the Forum and its work that is so crucial for our industry and its long term future. 

Contact

John Dracup,
Industry Strategy Director
Royal Smithfield Club
M: 07508 577503
E: john@royalsmithfieldclub.co.uk