Caroline Mitchell (Kealey)

Caroline Mitchell

Having grown up on Beef, Dairy and Arable farm in West Yorkshire, I was always aware of the agricultural industry. However, it wasn’t until I actually had an Applied Biology honours degree from University of Nottingham under my belt and no idea what I wanted to do with it, that I started looking at agriculture more closely.

In May 2006 I started working for JSR Genetics Ltd.  JSR Genetics has established a global brand for profitable pig production with an unparalleled range of top quality breeding stock and semen and an exemplary health scheme, which assures customers of total biosecurity. Our aim is to breed pigs that perform profitably for the producer and create pork which is of exceptional eating quality for the consumer.

What started off as two weeks work experience to develop my CV, soon ended up being a full time job and after a year with the company I was approached with the a proposal to study an MSc in Meat Science and Technology part-time, sponsored by BPEX, at Bristol University while working in the JSR Research and Genetics Department. Such an opportunity didn’t take that much thinking about!

I have now been with JSR Genetics Ltd for nearly 12 years and I was appointed Director of Meat Science in 2014. In 2011 I established the JSR Food Quality Centre and as part of my role at JSR I lead a team that consults industry, both in the UK and internationally, on production of all meat products, specialising in consumer acceptance and supply chain optimisation of pork. With the UK market share held by pork declining, my unique position is aimed at reversing the downward trend in pork sales and maintaining a sustainable industry.  

In addition I am now nearing the end of my second term of office with the National Pig Association: Allied Industry Group Committee and have been the UK representative for the International Congress of Meat Science and Technology since 2010. I am also industry supervisor for multiple research projects at the University of Western England, sit on the Management group for the EU COST action CA15215 and am a member of the EU PiG Thematic Group – Meat Quality.

When I’m not working, or traveling the country visiting friends, I spend my time at home on my husband’s family farm in Lincolnshire. At home I am currently getting to grips with being a beekeeper and fighting a losing battle with the rabbits in my garden.  

I am extremely grateful to The Worshipful Company of Butchers for sponsoring my Nuffield Scholarship and I look forward to embarking on this exciting project.

 

Carcass grading and payment systems to improve the eating quality of UK meat

Study Overview

The current payment and assessment systems used by UK processors, EUROP (beef and lamb) and LM% (pork), do not correlate well with meat quality.

“The current system of carcass classification used in Great Britain is completely outdated and is holding back the development of the industry by failing to adequately communicate consumer demand back to the processors and producers” (Stimulating the introduction of a new method of pig carcass classification, AHDB Strategy Priority 1.2, Year 1 Report)

Red meat animals are produced for consumption and, whilst per-capita consumption of red meat appears relatively stable, the market share of red meat is declining when compared to that of chicken, fish and convenience foods. This suggests that the consumer is not receiving a product with meat quality that meets their expectations: therefore, red meat has room for growth in per-capita consumption by taking some of the market share away from poultry, fish and convenience foods.

It is important that protein farmers focus on the consumer as the customer, not the processor and/or retailer. Without consumer demand the need to produce red meat is reduced and carcass value decreases, making the industry unstable. Countries such as Japan, Korea, Australia and the USA already have grading and payment mechanisms that reward the producer for eating quality. If the UK doesn't start focussing on the consumer acceptance of its red meat, then the demand for UK-produced red meat in the home and global markets will decline in favour of better eating quality (and often cheaper) meat produced abroad.

For industry growth we need to produce red meat that satisfies the expectations of the global consumer to further develop international export of fresh meat, as well as maintain and grow home market share.

Some non-UK pork and beef supply chains have payment and grading systems that assess the potential meat quality of a carcass and reward the producer in correlation to the predicted meat quality. It is posited that the UK red meat industry can improve meat quality, increase consumer acceptability and increase market share by utilising existing technologies and knowledge. By rewarding for premium meat quality, the producer is incentivised to implement improvements for meat quality within their production system. By streaming product within the processing facility based on the predicted meat quality, it's possible to manage quality and consistency; thereby consumer expectations are maintained. This should lead to an increase in red meat consumption and improve consumer satisfaction.

During the Nuffield Farming Scholarship study tour a careful study was made of the UK, France, Germany, America, Japan, Australia, Italy, Ireland and Spain, investigating the mechanisms in place to measure meat quality. The main recommendations are:

  • Meat Standards Australia is the “gold standard” we should be working towards to enable the UK to compete on the global market and this system should be developed in the UK for pork, beef and lamb;
  • The gmSCAN system should be trialled in the UK;
  • The compatibility of robotic cutters with each classification and grading system should be considered.

Scholar Video