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Choice Cuts

The GoodBeef Index provides information to educate consumers about the benefits of properly grazed beef, writes Martin Hesp, on behalf of Food Drink Devon

What’s your beef? It’s a meat that comes in a selection of cuts and joints – but there is so much more to it, such as breed variety, nutritional value and flavour profile, as well as how the animal was raised and how good or bad it is for the planet.

So there is beef, and then there is beef. Not that you’d know it if you visited the average supermarket chiller display, where consumers are confronted only by a choice of cuts and joints. A Devon farmer wants to change this. He says shoppers are not being given nearly enough detail about the beef they buy. He also claims that West Country farmers who graze beef in the classic and eco-friendly way, face unfair competition when they take their animals to market.

“You work for three years planning and raising a beef animal, then you go to the abattoir where you get £3.95 a kilo – but actually it’s costing you £4.60 a kilo to produce… and you feel miffed,” says David Andrews, who has launched a programme called the GoodBeef Index in a bid to address the problem.

He says properly grazed beef is far superior in every way to the kind of meat that is produced in feedlots, where animals are fed on nothing but concentrates. He adds that new scientific evidence shows that animals raised on a good grazing regime can actually help counter climate change.

“Through this index, consumers will instantly be able to know which is good beef, and which is not,” says Mr Andrews. “In this country, there’s often just plain beef on sale. While some traditional butchers will tell you where the beef has come from, the mainstream supermarket-led retail system does not differentiate between good beef and bad.

“Farmers who rely on eco-friendly grazing practices in places like the South West are producing some of the best beef in the world, yet we are making a loss on every kilo. At the same time, consumers are not aware that the beef we produce is good for them and good for the planet.”

Mr Andrews runs two pedigree herds of cattle near the West Devon village of Lydford, but it is not only his experience as a farmer which has allowed him to invent the GoodBeef Index. The one-time corporate CEO used to employ 9,000 people worldwide in a large business software company. The knowledge gained in that world has enabled him to develop the new grading and tracing system.

Through Internet and QR-code technology, the new system allows producers, retailers and consumers to access an almost encyclopaedic insight into the beef they are selling or buying, right down to the environmental and nutritional facts behind the actual cut or joint in the shopper’s basket.

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