THE NFU called on more people to eat British beef as it supported Great British Beef Week.

The annual campaign, organised by Ladies in Beef, was launched on Wednesday of last week – St George’s Day. The UK is the fourth largest producer of beef in Europe, but production has fallen by about four per cent in recent times.

To reverse that trend, the NFU called on consumers, retailers and Government to back British farming.

Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman, said: “Around half of our beef comes from the suckler herd – calves are reared with their mothers for seven to ten months.

“These herds are a vital part of our livestock production system with long term cycles of around three years. But cow numbers have been gradually falling.

“We are highlighting the need for government and the food industry to ensure we have more long-term investment and the type of regulations and market signals that are targeted to reverse the current decline.”

The NFU wants more investment and longer term relationships in the beef supply chain, the ‘stranglehold of red tape’ removed from the sector, and rural development programmes supporting productive and competitive farm businesses.

It also wants environmental schemes with tailored and relevant options for grazed livestock which manages the majority of the most valued landscapes in the country, a commitment from government to seriously address TB in all species, and British beef labeled clearly on supermarket shelves.

Mr Sercombe said: “Consumers tell us they want to eat more British produce and that provenance is important to them. One of the most interesting developments we’ve seen is the increased demand for native breeds of cattle such as Shorthorn, Angus and Hereford beef.

“Farmers have responded to this demand and adapted their systems accordingly.

Many are embracing new technology, from ultrasound and genomics in breeding programmes through to computer modelling and precision farming.

“But having the longterm confidence to invest is paramount to the future success of our beef sector and this comes from getting a framework where British beef farmers can run profitable businesses.”