The new plant – first announced in February – will result in the retailer managing the whole production process from Dovecote Park – from the arrival of the cattle to the consumer packaging.
“This additional investment means that, just like Waitrose fresh beef, all of Waitrose frozen beef will now be managed exclusively by Dovecote Park,” said the retailer. “No other retailer is able to source all of its beef from one supplier.”
All its fresh and frozen beef were sourced solely from a known and trusted group of British farmers – with no purchases made on the open market, said the retailer. The only exception was its pastrami meat product, which is sourced from Belgium.
Initially about 12 jobs will be created by the new plant with the possibility of more to follow.
Fresh and frozen ready meals
The new facility has allowed Dovecote Park to produce all the retailer’s beef products – from beef burgers, meatballs, joints, steak and mince – to producing the beef used in fresh and frozen ready meals.
Frozen burgers and frozen ready meals were one of the categories hardest hit by the horsemeat crisis.
At the height of the scandal, sales of beef-based ready meals were down 15–20% week-on-week, according to Nielsen data.
Dovecote Park has supplied Waitrose with fresh beef products – including fresh burgers, steaks and joints – since 1997.
Heather Jenkins, the grocer’s buying director for meat, poultry, fish, frozen, dairy and agriculture, said: “We've a long heritage of working with Dovecote Park to produce high quality and tasty meat, and we're delighted that this new frozen facility means we can get all our fresh and frozen beef from one source. Our customers rightly expect the highest standards of product quality and integrity from us and we won’t let anything stand in the way of delivering this.”
Moreover the move would give customers “total reassurance” about where their beef had come from, she added.
Previously, Waitrose relied on a range of companies to supply and package its beef products.
Meanwhile, Waitrose has restocked its shelves with frozen beef and meatballs, after withdrawing them as a “precautionary measure” during the height of the horsemeat crisis.
Products returned to sale include own-label British quarter pounders, Aberdeen Angus quarter pounders, British meatballs and 2oz British burgers.
Last month Birds Eye pledged to source all its beef from the UK and Ireland.