Funding Your Future: your Beef & Lamb sector questions answered

As part of Funding Your Future, we asked for your questions about the proposed levy increase and the work we do. Below are the answers to the questions we received from Beef & Lamb levy payers.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

The levy should have probably gone up in the past, but we are at a critical junction now for the B&L sector. There’s a massive amount of opportunity but there is also a reducing amount of subsidy coming into our farms. We’ve got to get together, start backing ourselves and investing in our own future. The reality is that nobody else is going to do it for us. That’s what the levy is about – investing in the future of the sector.

Our hope is in the future we can find a slightly more flexible way of dealing with the levy. If, for example, we get into markets and there is a new opportunity, we can go out to levy payers and say 'this is an opportunity, it requires this amount of investment to capitalise on it and this is the return that’s going to come back to the sector'. But we are where we are, it’s set out in legislation how the levy increase has to be activated, so we have to follow the process.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

We are already in conversation with the sector council about how the opportunity of a larger budget might manifest, and it’s really clear that we have dependencies with the work we do between different life stages – from educating consumers of the future, all the way up to post-family but also all the work we do on the domestic market has an absolute direct correlation to how we go out and be more competitive overseas.

Having more funding to do work here benefits not just more red meat sold domestically but also more opportunities overseas.

AHDB has been driving significant savings over the last two years.

Reducing spend by over £8m (£5m due to the wind up of Hort & Potatoes), we continue to look where saving can be made, however without an increase in the levy some of the key work we deliver such as exports and marketing will have to be reduced.

The levy has been at the same level for over 12 years and that has seen a 40% reduction in spending power.

If you would like to follow up on this question, we would be happy to have a conversation about where we have linked some of our work with CPD points but we would need to understand exactly what you mean.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

The mechanism to call a ballot is in place if 5% of levy payers write in within a set time period. Details are on the website.

The areas of increased spend will be in line with what levy payers told us they wanted in 'Shape the Future'.

The sector council will have the final decision on where funding goes. However, marketing and exports will be key areas of investment, along with the education work we are building.

We don’t advertise produce to farmers. Our marketing is aimed at consumers and the specific groups of consumers that we are likely to have an impact on.

We do offer content for articles to the farming press and use the expertise of our brilliant teams where it offers an impact to levy payers.

During the levy increase conversations, we have placed advertorials from each of the sectors in the farming press to let levy payers know what is happening. We felt that it was only right to spread the message as wide as possible so that as many people as possible knew what is going on.

We also know that the farming press is where some levy payers get their information from. If we hadn’t done that then we would have been accused of trying to hide it away.

We never tell people what to do, we want to help levy payers in every way we can and then it is a choice if you interact with our services.

AHDB has been driving significant savings over the last two years. Reducing spend by over £8m (£5m due to the wind up of Hort & Potatoes), we continue to look where savings can be made. However without an increase in the levy some of the key work we deliver such as exports and marketing will have to be reduced.

The levy has been at the same level for over 12 years and that has seen a 40% reduction in spending power.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

We’ve already started. We’ve been working with primary and secondary schools for about eight years. We have an online resource as part of a partnership with the British Nutrition Foundation, which has thousands of different resources for teachers, including hundreds of recipes and videos of cooking and cooking practices because we recognise, to the point around proper meat, budgetary challenges in school are a real barrier.

We have started a pilot this year with 50 schools where we are getting free red meat into those schools so they can cook in the classroom.

Also check out our Food a Fact of Life campaign. There’s a lot of information which we put into schools to give them nutritional understanding in the classroom.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

Of course levy payers would be worse off without AHDB. The frustration in a question like that is that people don’t understand what AHDB does because a lot of the work done is behind the scenes.

It's about providing the evidence to be able to sell our product at a higher price. We have a product which at the moment in the domestic market that is trading much higher than other products around the world. A lot of that is because of the evidence, it’s the story, the marketing.

I would fear for the future of my farm without AHDB. There’s a lot of other competitors in the world who'd like to take those markets from us. They back their levy boards in a big way and they're very aggressive. They are not going to go away so we have got to keep investing in our sector.

In terms of the core team there's 10 marketing people working across four sectors. We use agencies and second in the expertise as and when we need to use it. We don't have the biggest budgets compared to some of the private sector – there are companies that have advertising budgets five or six times the size of ours  but we do sweat that asset phenomenally well.

There's a considered more strategic approach to this which is that advertising is the mouthpiece but actually the really important part is all the work behind the scenes that levy payers not always us see that allows us to push the boundaries and talk about new things. For example, the conversations to move the debate from GWP 100 to GWP* or the conversations that are happening with our knowledge exchange teams to help the sectors get to net zero, or taking a panel of nutritionists out on farm to talk to a farmer about his journey to net zero. Without having all that happening, the advertising becomes dated and obsolete because it’s not moving forward.

DEFRA been working on livestock information. Having good traceability is key to unlocking export markets and keeping the confidence of consumers. As we know it only takes one disease outbreak to destroy confidence. 

Our current Red Tractor position is here: AHDB ready to support discussions over future of farm assurance

We don’t tell people what to do. It would be good to understand where you think we are doing this. Most of the spend is post-farm gate. The pre-farm gate work is valued by a lot of people who interact with it. It also helps build our story as a sector. I don’t expect everyone to like every aspect of what we do.

We don’t believe it is a waste of money.

I’m not getting into pay. We have brilliant people at AHDB who work hard every day to deliver value for you and all levy payers.

A vote can be triggered as described in the video.

Our work has focused on getting biogenic methane more accurately reflected in reporting and have been dual reporting with GWP*. We have published a number of new pages on the website trying to build understanding of emissions, the GHG national inventory and the use of GWP*.

We have used the information from these webpages in presentations across the industry.

New study supports GWP* to measure methane from livestock

What is GWP*?

Applying GWP* to UK national GHG emissions

The latest page dual reports the GHG National Inventory statistics.

The We Eat Balanced website is still using GWP100 numbers. Data used in our marketing campaign is strictly determined by the demands of the Advertising Standards Authority codes. There is very little data we are able to draw on to support claims that promote British red meat and dairy.

The national inventory data is used to highlight, by comparison to other sectors, how little livestock contribute to national emissions. This stems from the common false claim that livestock emit more than transport. While we fully acknowledge there are serious flaws in these figures due to a number a reporting factors and methods, it is the only legally recognised data we are able to use at present.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

We've found a formula that works, that drives impact so anything that we're doing now, we're looking to complement activity rather than compete with or cannibalise it. We are very much focused on continuing the mission of protecting the role of red meat as part of a healthy and sustainable diet. Some areas where that could manifest is in more targeting of consumers, particularly younger consumers, and also healthcare professionals where we've seen a disparity in their understanding of the role of red meat within a healthy, sustainable diet.

Partnership working is also important because when you are talking about Gen Z, you need that relatability, it gives you credibility if you're doing it with the right partners. But also, just from a making the money go further perspective, partnership working allows us to share resource, do more, more often. And there is the frequency of what we're doing. So, if we're doing something we know works, and we do it often, we know it will keep those attitudes up. Digital innovation is really important, as it allows us to do more, more frequently, more intelligently. The use of Artificial Intelligence and chatbots gives us scale.

The numbers you have used here aren’t as you are putting them forward. The £19m is for marketing and export work across all our sectors. The income from the Beef & Sheep levy is approx £14.2m this year, of which roughly 70% is spent on exports and marketing activities.

Nearly all of our revenue is through levy and access to alternative revenue streams is not as you are saying here. We are looking at ways we can leverage money from other sources however that will never get near the amount that is received from the levy.

Have a look at the marketing we do on the website. It is not as you are describing and there are new cutting-edge campaigns every year. We Eat Balanced, Iron Lady, Eat Like A Lioness’ these are across all channels from TV to social media, they have a huge impact with the target audience.

We know that our various work has a positive impact on the sector that when people see our adverts they are more likely to purchase red meat. The Make It campaign had a 12:1 return on investment (we know that doesn’t all go to farm gate) which had a positive impact on sales. We also know that on sheep, for example about £35 per head is added by exports and if we weren’t involved those exports deals wouldn't be in place.

We don't believe it is throwing good money after bad. It is in investment in the future of the sector. AHDB does work that individual producers can't do on their own.

70% of our work is on exports and marketing. Being able to prove our credentials is key to being able to unlock these markets.

We have a lot of levy payers who value the on-farm information and work we undertake. This also helps to build our story. You don’t have to like everything we do but hope you can see value in most areas.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

AHDB has been very consistent on the position it's taken on assurance. In 2021 we asked for a review at the time we weren’t supported, and we very recently asked for a review. Our position is that we need to see a review of the whole of assurance, how does it work, who does it work for, where is the value and is it fit for the future? The most important thing is whether it is fit for the future and does it deliver value back to farmers. Until we can ask those questions it is very difficult to move forward.

An overarching review has got to be one review delivered independently.

This is a piece of work that was looked at a few years ago and if levy payers asked us to revisit then it would be possible to relook at it.

It's not quite as clean cut as that. The levy is a small percentage of the finished animal and not 25% of the value. As I have shared in other answers the work that we are doing in marketing and exports are offering value for levy payers. We want to make sure this work continues.

I don't think we do 'bang on' about efficiency. 70% of work we do is in exports and marketing which is post-farm gate. We do want to engage levy payers pre-farm gate as well and this helps us build the case to sell more product.

We don’t advertise produce to farmers. Our marketing is aimed at consumers and the specific groups of consumers that we are likely to have an impact on.

We do offer content for articles to the farming press and use the expertise of our brilliant teams where it offers an impact to levy payers.

We asked all levy payers what the most important work was to them 18 months ago and we have put that into place. Reputation, marketing and exports make up the vast majority of our work.

We aren’t involved in the agreement of free trade deals.

You can see our position on Red Tractor here: AHDB ready to support discussions over future of farm assurance

This is work we have been doing for years and we continue to build on it.

We know that our various work has a positive impact on the sector.

When people see our adverts, they are more likely to purchase red meat. The Make It campaign had a 12:1 return on investment (we know that doesn't all go to farm gate) which had a positive impact on sales.  We also know that on sheep about £35 per head is added by exports and if we weren't involved, those exports deals wouldn't be in place. This is where the focus of the Beef & Lamb investment is.

We are one part of the jigsaw in all of this so cannot be responsible for overall prices, just as we can't take credit for the full £35 per head of added value from exports on sheep meat. We are executing the work that levy payers can't do on their own.

We aren't bowing down to a narrative and are actively working to push back. The work we are doing on net zero and baselining is aimed at providing the evidence that allows us to push back in a more robust way.

A few months ago, we managed to find a way to work around the rules you are referring to (which were in UK law). We can now and are now using British and the Union Jack on our marketing materials.

It's the results of the marketing campaigns that are important, not if people like the adverts or not. We talked about this in the livestream.

At any time, a ballot can be called within any sector. 5% of levy payers within that sector have to write in within a 30-day period for a ballot to be triggered.

All of our marketing is aimed at beef and lamb in general, it doesn’t matter what status it has. We have also been working with the halal sector a lot of make sure this market is as vibrant as it can be. This was talked about in the live event.

The position on Red Tractor is here: AHDB ready to support discussions over future of farm assurance

We are always looking at ways to supplement income from other sources.  It is an area we are going to focus further on.

We do have some other income streams in areas such as the access to our market intelligence services. A challenge with this is that we want to make as much available to levy payers as possible so it limits the income we can generate.

We also look to leverage money from government and others areas where we can. There may be scope for more of this in future.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

What we try to identify are the ones that have the biggest volumes and impact.

One of the big problems with India is the cold chain - keeping product refrigerated is a problem. But that doesn't mean there aren't going to be high-value opportunities in India. Once there is a trade deal, we will be out there with exporters taking them out there and finding out what the opportunities are and developing them.

The potential to spread further and look at more markets is bigger with a levy increase.

We have got quite a small exports team. Meat and Livestock Australia are just putting somebody into Vietnam, which is a target market for us, they've got people in markets all around the world and that's something we would like to have.

This is where extra levy will give us the opportunity to invest in people because international trade is very much a face-to-face business and it's all based on trust.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

We're very active in the halal sector on behalf of the sheep industry because Muslim consumers hugely over index on lamb consumption. They are a very important part of the sheep meat make-up and dynamic.

We do a couple of things to support that sector – first one is understanding the Muslim consumer and what their looking to purchase and how. And the other work we do is about opening new markets overseas or supporting regions where we already have access.

Europe is a big export market for sheep meat, some of that is halal. More recently in the Middle East region, the Muslim population there is of course looking for a quality product. We're exporting product to the Middle East region that needs to be halal certified. We promote the product at trade events such as Gulfood and from activity and missions to the market to make sure that our sellers and buyers are really close and they can do business together.

It's very clear from a processing point of view but it's a little bit removed from a farming point of view but the work that goes on supports the value of the animal, maximises the value of each and every part. Exports of sheep meat in 2022 were £503m so that underlines how important exports are to the sector.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

We are fighting a different number of challenges on different fronts. The advertising and the marketing we deliver are just one of many channels. There's also misinformation, policy discussions, challenges we have around GWP100 vs GWP* and we've got the challenge around the Advertising Standards Authority and agendas with certain newspapers. A reader of the Guardian is three times more likely to be reducing their meat consumption. The earnest work behind the scenes, including what's happening on farm, is what's going to change the narrative. The science is starting to catch up.

The message being seen in major newspapers is being paid for by people with a vested interest in getting people on to plant-based foods, but when you look at the consumption patterns of beef and lamb in the UK and worldwide, it's not changing very much. So, their message is not getting through. There is some drop off in consumption at the moment and that's mainly in regard to price and that's economic circumstances.

We’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes, but the science is starting to move in our direction. The really important thing is we've got to have evidence for the claims we make, otherwise they will be taken down, they'll break advertising standards rules, and we won't have any credibility. 

This was answered during the live Q&A.

We actually do it together. We will meet with the chief execs of HCC and QMS on a four-weekly basis and we work together in quite a few areas. It's really important for us that we aren't duplicating each others' work.

For a lot of the trade shows we might have distinct areas where we are talking about our specifics, but it's all done together which is really important. We've all got slightly different takes on the marketing with a slightly different story.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

GWP100 and GWP* are two different methodologies in terms of measuring impact and the difference is that they tackle methane in a different way. GWP100 doesn’t take into account that methane from livestock emissions is part of a natural cycle. We’ve been working with the BFU/TFF group but we’ve got to bear in mind that the IPCC are reporting in a certain way at the moment and that means that to be able to make comparisons there are some things that we have no option on because there is no comparable data.  We are working towards dual reporting, but we have to build the evidence base and can’t do that overnight.

There are regulations in place and nowhere are they tighter than in paid advertising. There are things we can say and there are things if we want to say we have to prove them. Right now, it’s built around the national inventory, GWP100, which allows us to say we’re one of the most sustainable in the world and that’s the message we’re delivering, that British Lamb and Beef is some of the most sustainably produced in the world. That for consumers, through our testing, is the thing that ticks their box more than getting into the weeds of methane. So what’s important to the farmer audience, we find, isn’t necessarily as important to consumers.

We do a lot of work in terms of testing the impact of different messages. There’s high level messages around ‘one of the most sustainable in the world’ that consistently test well. But when you get to the granularity of methane, water use and land change, consumer interest wanes. There is a place for it but in terms of a headline advert, not. 

This was answered during the live Q&A.

We've moved from an office that held around 400 people to one that holds 130 – that's saving us around £600,000 a year. We made a commitment two years ago, on the back of moving out of Horticulture and Potatoes, that we would look to save £8m but actually £2m of that wasn’t from Horticulture and Potatoes but from making efficiency savings ourselves such as reducing senior management. 

We’re very focused on what levy payers asked – reputation of the industry, exports and marketing. We're very focused on those and all the evidence to underpin that work. We're partnering with people in order to maximise that levy spend, for example export money where we're working with exporters and asking them what they want us to do in markets to maximise their ability to go out and sell product.

This was answered during the live Q&A.

At the moment, from LAA data we calculate the liveweight prices and put them on our website and deal with them being put on the back of Farmers Weekly and Farmers Guardian.

LAA want to take that and commercialise it more. We realised as a levy board we weren’t able to do that in the way they wanted. 

This was answered during the live Q&A.

It has been about scale in the industry for the last however many years because margins have been tight, but those smaller processors are really valuable because they have to extract a higher value from what they do.

They bring innovation to the sector and if we need to work with them more closely, we will do.

Funding Your Future 2023 – Beef & Lamb

Watch the Beef & Lamb Funding Your Future live Q&A session

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