"Consumers, supermarkets and abattoirs need to understand livestock farming better" - new LAA Chairman
10th November 2014
The newly elected chairman of the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA), Rod Cordingley, has issued a call to arms to the industry to communicate better with consumers about livestock farming and production.
The auctioneer from Stephenson & Son, York Auction Centre took over from Robert Addison as chairman on 9 November 2014.
Mr Cordingley said: "The auction mart system has been around for nearly 200 years and has always been on the side of the farmer. In today's market, we all need to be working together to tell the whole story of livestock farming.
"Abattoirs tell farmers that their supermarket customers are making them restrict livestock movements to a certain number, or specifying that animals can't have been moved in the last 30 days. But why are they penalising farmers in this way?
"The supermarkets will tell us it's because their customers - shoppers - don't like the animal welfare implications. But what are these animal welfare reasons? I've seen no evidence to support this reaction."
Mr Cordingley believes there is a wider communications challenge around telling the story of the countryside and the role of auction marts in the production of food. He wants to raise consumer awareness.
"People need to understand why livestock is bred in the hills of the west, where grass is plentiful, and why it's finished in the east, where there's plenty of fodder," he continued. "It takes 5kg of feed to make 1kg of beef, so it's cheaper to bring the animals to the feed rather than the feed to the animals.
"We need to tell this story to consumers - through supermarkets, butchers, agricultural shows, open farms, and at every opportunity. Livestock movements are a fact of life and are better done through our licensed premises which are open to public inspection."
Mr Cordingley believes the purpose of the LAA is to make sure the industry has workable rules around which to operate a crucial auction mart system. "I'm obviously a massive fan of auction marts, which are the best way to keep trade free and open, and I want to see the system survive and thrive," he said.
"Through the auction marts, farmers have the ability to market their stock and get a fair price. Every time a farmer elects to sell direct and simply accept a price that's dictated to them, this fairer system is damaged. Milk production and pig production have lost their competitive bidding. If we do not get our message across to farmers, beef production and lamb production will follow."