Created by the Royal Smithfield Club, the Smithfield Forum aims to bring together all aspects of the red meat supply chain to create a consistent message for the sector, addressing issues such as Brexit, labour supply, support payments for farmers, certification and control post-Brexit, the environment, animal welfare and consumer health.
At a press briefing announcing the forum, Royal Smithfield Club chairman William Bedell said it was essential that the red meat industry worked together. “We’re facing the most serious times since foot-and-mouth disease due to a combination of issues, including retailer consolidation, EU exit, competition from overseas and growing anti-meat lobby groups. There’s a lack of a single industry voice, and with the Royal Smithfield Club being independent and apolitical, we can unite the industry and ask the awkward questions.”
The forum was conceived by Royal Smithfield Club industry strategy director John Dracup, who said that the Club was keen not to duplicate what other organisations were doing.
“The industry already has a number of professional, proficient organisations operating well within their sector,” he said. “As an independent, credible voice, the Royal Smithfield Club will provide a platform which brings everyone together, giving them the opportunity to freely discuss an industry position on key issues, specifically focusing on red meat.
“We want to act as a statesman organisation that can campaign for issues that need support. We can rely on our status as a charity to make uncomfortable statements.”
He added that, despite a reluctance for the industry to work together, meat was a product worth shouting about. “The UK is producing to some of the highest animal welfare and meat production standards in the world, and we need to communicate this.”
The Smithfield Forum was launched at the House of Lords in January and included representatives from red meat lobby groups, levy boards, processors and breed societies. The event saw the first engagement of new Royal Smithfield Club president HRH The Countess of Wessex.
At the launch, Dracup reiterated the need for a united front. “Our main aim is to unite the red meat supply chain to ensure a consistent message reaches our customers,” he said. “In order to achieve this, we will be challenging and engaging with our industry, which will have to evolve considerably during the coming months and years.”