DALES FARMERS FLY COOPERATIVE FLAG
Monday April 28, 2003, p. 9.
The Yorkshire dale that saved its famous cheese industry five years ago is planning to work the same magic for threatened local beef and lamb.
A cooperative scheme with many of the features of the Great Wensleydale Cheese Rescue will be launched this week at the local market town of Leyburn.
Farmers hit by the foot and mouth epidemic - and others who saved their animals but lost out on compensation - have abandoned traditional rivalries to create a joint marketing firm.
As with the cheese, which revived its fortunes through a strict "made only in Wensleydale" guarantee, all meat will be directly traceable to Dales herds and flocks.
"The idea came out of a crisis meeting between farmers and the dale's auction mart at Hawes," said Liz Hird, whose appointment as general manager of the new Dales Quality Meat company mirrors the woman-led creamery buyout which restarted cheese making in Wensleydale. Threatened with closure by the national consortium Dairy Crest, which wanted to move production to Lancashire, the cheesemakers staged a revolt under the leadership of a senior executive, Alice Amsden.
The final piece of the new meat cooperative fell into place this year with the agreement of Wensleydale's abbatoir, in the village of Bainbridge, to join. The move means the firm's lamb and beef will be processed entirely within the Dales, from grazing to packaging for supermarkets and shops.
Ms Hird said: "It will be a guarantee from pasture to plate, with strict and verifiable standards. Most livestock farmers in the Dales are already farming to high standards of animal welfare and are following environmentally friendly practices."
The firm's launch has been helped by a grant from the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs.
The department's regional adviser, Sarah Broadbent, said: "This is a prime example of farmers working together to create a sustainable market for meat."