Farmers supplying the Co-operative Group have been organised into collectives to ensure a transparent supply chain.
The five groups have initially been launched for farmers supplying its own-brand fresh British standard pork, standard chicken, Hereford/Aberdeen Angus beef, Cambrian lamb and Hampshire Breed pork.
In order to become a member of the group, and to supply Co-operative stores, farmers have to meet two mandatory fields, which are strict animal health, welfare and quality standards. The other required area is the Co-operative brand, which covers the relationship between the farmers and the Group, and working together to share best practice.
Farms that meet those two pillars will be classed as bronze farms. In addition farmers can reach silver or gold status by meeting other standards under sustainability (which includes alternative energy and energy conservation), the environment (carbon footprint self assessments) and ethical and training (apprenticeships and memberships to professional bodies, such as the PIPR).
As farms work to progress through the pillars to become silver or gold farms, they will receive a premium from the Group, and further incentives such as inclusion in bulk feed schemes and medicine groups, which may result in cheaper and better deals for these items.
Run along co-operative lines, the farming groups also provide additional benefits for farmers such as working together to improve efficiencies, such as green energy and carbon footprint assessments; sharing ideas of best practice; and investing in training and research.
In addition, the Group is also looking at other areas such as buying in bulk, the creating of a medicine group, insemination offers and apprenticeships.
Steve Murrells, Chief Executive for the Co-operative Food, said: “The Co-operative Group has always been a strong supporter of the UK farming industry, sourcing and promoting fresh meat and poultry from animals reared in the UK wherever possible. The farming groups offer a joined-up development approach and long-term commitment to these supply chains. The aim is to deliver both a profitable return for farmers and high-quality, traceable, fresh British meat and poultry for our customers.
“These farming groups will help further strengthen our relationship with producers and give our customers even greater confidence in the provenance of our fresh own-brand meat and poultry. Additional incentives for farmers include bulk feed and medicine groups, training and apprenticeships — so the groups provide a win-win situation for all.”