But there was a great deal of room for improving both product quality and consistency and the supply chain, Bob Bansback, director of the Red Meat Industry Forum, told producers and processors at the Soil Association's organic beef conference at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.
Demand continued to outstrip supply with UK consumption increasing to 13,000 tonnes up 15 -20 per cent on 2005. But about 40 per cent of this came from imported beef in spite of pent-up demand from British consumers for the home product.
However, market projections indicated that, even assuming current trends continued, UK production requirements in 2010 would be 15,000 to 20,000 cattle. Assuming maximum import replacement this could rise to 36,000 head.
Drive for this would come from consumers who saw organic production as better for the environment and producing a healthier product which tasted better. Many of these said they were prepared to pay more for organic, particularly if it came from Britain.
A high proportion put organic beef above the premium beef offerings from leading supermarkets although, curiously, the strongest demand was for the lower-priced cuts such as mince or stewing beef. This demonstrated that producers needed to tackle the issues of improved taste and consistency to improve penetration at the top end of the market, said Bansback.