Beef is an important raw material for M&S and with a decreasing number of beef farmers across the UK and Republic of Ireland we wanted to adapt our sourcing approach to ensure we had improved security of supply moving forward.
Historically, we operated two different procurement methods for beef dependent on whether it was used for fresh supply or used as an ingredient.
We have a strong heritage of sourcing with integrity. One of the reasons why we weren’t affected by the horsemeat scandal of 2013 was due to the controls we already place on ingredients. Whilst we believe our audit standards are robust and industry-leading, we know we cannot be complacent. We spent time consulting with our suppliers and industry experts on how we can improve. As a result, in 2015 we introduced our new M&S Select Farm Assurance standard for beef.
All beef used in M&S for both fresh and ingredient use must be sourced from M&S Select Farms and comply with our beef traceability requirements. We have also introduced a single cattle standard that requires beef to come only from steers and heifers up to 36 months of age with all animals having to be sired by bulls on an approved breed list.
Our M&S Select Farm Assurance standards for beef have been developed in collaboration with suppliers, industry experts and NGOs. They cover criteria such as traceability and integrity, animal health and welfare, medicines and biosecurity, feed and water, vermin control, facilities for housing and shelter, calf rearing, transport, environmental protection, documentation, and worker health, safety and welfare.
We have introduced DNA traceability across our beef supply chain that enables us to trace beef in a pack on shelf back to the exact animal it came from.
We do not permit the rearing of calves for white veal, only rose veal.
All feed should be sourced from a verifiable approved source (e.g. AIC Universal Feed Assurance Scheme (UFAS) or Feed Material Assurance Scheme (FEMAS)) which also meets our specification.
We have developed our own specification for the feeding of our beef cattle which ensures animals are fed a wholesome diet to maintain optimum health and welfare. We prohibit the addition of any animal or avian derived by-products in any of our cattle feed (the only exception to this is milk and milk by-products). The diets are generally:
- Grass (preserved as silage or hay in winter)
- Barley, wheat or maize – whole or processed (milled, etc)
- Legumes and oilseeds – whole or processed
We do not permit the feeding of antibiotics or hormones for purposes of growth promotion. Where veterinary medicines are administered due to ill health strict withdrawal periods are met to ensure no traces of the medicine remain in the meat.