Supermarket chain Morrisons is to open its beef supply chain to bull calves from its dairy suppliers who are already participating in milk processor Arla UK’s 360 programme. The retailer says this is an industry first, which could improve animal welfare as well as eventually helping reduce the UK’s reliance on imported beef.

The move will allow dairy farmers supplying Morrisons through Arla UK 360 to sell bull and beef calves into the calf rearing units of Buitelaar Production, Morrisons’ beef rearing partner. Belgian and British Blue crossbred animals may go on to form part of Morrisons’ beef supply chain.

One of the Arla UK 360 standards stipulates that no healthy calf should be shot or slaughtered before eight weeks old, so Morrisons says the move will support farmers by guaranteeing a home for every calf.

“As we own our own abattoirs and end-to-end meat production, we saw an opportunity to connect the supply chains to support our dairy farmers even more.,” comments Sophie Throup, Morrisons’ agricultural manager. “Having worked with Buitelaar since 2009 on developing the dairy beef market, we already have a good working relationship to build on through the extended programme for Morrisons’ Arla farmers.”

Graham Wilkinson, agriculture director Arla Foods UK, adds: “This move by Morrisons to open up its supply chain to further support our owners, represents everything the Arla UK 360 programme envisioned. Arla’s farmer owners see opportunities to evolve farming if we make a supply chain that works for everyone. This decision and the support through the supply chain with Buitelaar is the perfect example of how bigger change can be delivered in agriculture if we all work together.”

A Buitelaar spokesman adds: “We share the view of Arla that every calf should have a value and purpose. With 30% of UK beef being imported into the UK, working across the supply chain and across both beef and dairy in this way could prove a big step in making Britain further self-sufficient in beef.

“ We have recently received recognition from farm animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming and been awarded the Good Calf Award, so we are confident our calf rearing units deliver the highest welfare and care for calves. It is great to see industry leaders come together to rethink the natural links between beef and dairy.”