Past Projects

Economic Research

Blade Farming’s Revolutionary Beef and Veal Production System

Research Lead: Value Chain Management International , Guelph, ON

Executive Summary

In 2001 Blade Farming (Blade), now owned by one of Europe’s largest processors ABP Food Group, developed a revolutionary beef and veal production system. The system is coordinated by a dedicated team who constantly monitors logistics, animal and producer performance, herd health, and feed inventories — resulting in the production of beef that is so consistent in quality that the cattle are effectively sold before they are conceived. Richard Phelps, Blade’s Managing Director, established the scheme after having worked for producer cooperatives and realizing that rising production costs, combined with historical inefficiencies, along with declining subsidies, were making beef production unviable for even the best UK producers.

Blade has succeeded where others have failed. It has established standard operating procedures and a risk management program that transcend each step of the beef animal’s production. This in turn ensures that everyone in the value chain benefits from being focused on producing an animal (and therefore beef) that meets customers’ expectations and is correctly positioned (in terms of maturation, packaging, presentation, promotion) to the specific segment to which it is marketed. The resulting consistency leads to higher returns, lower costs, and therefore greater margins and profitability than could otherwise be realized, with producers being equitably rewarded in relation to their individual performance. 

The continual improvement system implemented by Blade began by developing production protocols based on scientific research conducted into producing beef that provides consumers with a consistent high quality eating experience. Many of the scientific studies on which the system was devised were conducted by the Meat Science Centre, based at the University of Bristol. This included identifying the genetic markers associated with an animal’s disposition to produce tender meat.

As occurs in other industries, Blade then established a traceability system that enables the effectiveness of these processes to be accurately measured. This is done by gathering data from individual animals throughout their lifetime and at processing, then analyzing the resulting information in conjunction with their strategic partners to identify opportunities and implement changes. This has resulted in continual improvements in performance and Blade Farming’s possessing the ability to acquire then retain a sustainable competitive advantage. 


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