Here in the United Kingdom, very much like in America, we are scrutinised on an almost daily basis about what we eat, how it is produced and how much we are charged for the privilege. Continuous efforts are being made to ensure that the food we put on our plates is of the highest quality, comes from farms with the best animal welfare and, most importantly, tastes delicious. In the UK, we take a great deal of pride in producing our red meat and its journey from farm to fork. Very much like the US, we are proud of our farmers, producers and processors and feel the need to shout about what makes our country’s production processes among the best in the world.
At the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) our purpose is to inspire our farmers, growers and industry to succeed in a rapidly changing world – something more relevant this year when you look at the impact COVID-19 has had on all our lives and for the UK, the ongoing challenge of Brexit. We do this by equipping industry with easy to use, practical know-how, which they can apply straight away to make better decisions and improve their performance. For most in the US, AHDB is not a name you would be familiar with. Put quite simply, AHDB is a statutory levy board, funded by our farmers, growers and others in the supply chain. Every decision we make, every bit of research we undertake, is driven by our desire to do the best by our levy payers, as we are using their investment for their gain.
As part of our remit, we have a responsibility to raise the profile of our red meat overseas. Our export team works tirelessly to boost the reputation and knowledge of our products in key markets around the world. Pork is a product we are particularly proud of in the UK and one that we can confidently promote to other markets. Most recently, we have started working to raise awareness of our pork products in the US, an incredibly important market for the UK, having exported to our friends across the pond for the last six years. Our high-quality pork is served in restaurants and high-end supermarkets, complementing the offering from the US but providing an alternative to consumers. With 40% of our pigs bred outdoors and raised naturally in the lush British countryside, we believe our pork is a worthy competitor to other European imported products.
We have much to be proud of, with animal welfare high on the list. In the 19th century, the UK became the first country in the world to implement laws protecting our animals and today we operate assurance schemes such as the trusted Red Tractor to maintain these high levels of welfare. We have committed to reducing our antibiotic usage within the pig sector – with the latest data showing usage has dropped 60% in the last four years.
All of this makes UK pork an appetising alternative for the US market. Despite the challenges of the coronavirus crisis, a significant moment for UK farmers and food producers took place in late September when the first UK beef shipments to the US departed the UK. This shipment marks the first exports of UK beef in 20 years and follows an announcement earlier this year that authorities had agreed equivalence standards on the UK’s production systems following a three-week inspection that took place last year. But as we look to the future and try to imagine how trade will look after these unprecedented months, we know that the US remains an important market for UK meat. We hope that the two countries’ special relationship continues to flourish and that we see more of our products on tables across America.