Cattle farmers team up to safeguard their beef businesses against Brexit
Two Norfolk farming couples have teamed up to launch a beef box venture aimed at future-proofing their businesses by satisfying demand for home-grown, high-welfare meat.
The Norfolk Beef Company is a partnership between Jeremy and Kathryn Buxton of Eves Hill Farm at Booton, near Reepham, and Clive and Paula Bidmead of Rockland Herefords, near Attleborough.
Both farms breed pedigree Hereford beef cattle, and decided to combine their expertise to reduce costs, expand scale and extend their reach.
As well as promoting this native breed, the partners hope to identify customers who value provenance, low food miles and sustainability - a premium domestic market which they believe will be unaffected by Brexit, deal or no deal.
The company will fill 5kg and 10kg beef boxes with steaks, joints and mince for customers including pubs, restaurants and caterers, with an eye on expanding beyond Norfolk.
Mr Buxton, who left a TV presenting career with Eurosport in Paris to set up his pedigree Hereford herd, is also building up a commercial herd and has also diversified with a glamping site to make revenue streams more "robust". He said the beef box venture is the next step in bolstering the business against the uncertainties of Brexit.
"We have got a story to tell about traceability and how we produce our cattle, and I think this is the right time to be doing it, politically and economically" he said. "If we go into a 'no deal' situation and we are flooded with cheap meat from abroad, the people who really care about what they eat will still be looking for a quality British product that they know they can trust. We know who our customer is, and we are pushing the idea about low carbon footprint and low food miles, but also that we are farming with the environment in a pasture-fed system."
Mr Bidmead runs his herd part-time as he also does self-employed building maintenance work, while his wife works full-time as a curriculum manager at Easton College.
He said the new partnership was key to their goal of building their 40-strong herd up to a scale where it supports them both full-time.
"I have always said that farmers need to club together to lower costs and be more efficient, and not just carry on doing the same old thing because dad did it," he said. "You need to look to the future.
"I think we are safeguarding against what's happening in the political world because we are taking our destiny into our own hands. The thing about farming is you produce something and then someone else tells you what they will give you for it. But no-one is telling us what we will get for our beef."
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