Welwyn Garden City meat firm enjoying hard-earned status

Head of sales Weston Wright, partner Robert Hutchinson

Head of sales Weston Wright, partner Robert Hutchinson - Credit: Archant

BOSSES of a Welwyn Garden City meat processing business have told the Welwyn Hatfield Times how winning the Red Tractor accreditation has helped their business.

British Premium Meat, which has a head office and factory in Hydeway, won the accreditation, which assures consumers their products meet rigorous standards for animal welfare, food safety and traceability, about six years ago, but Red Tractor Week, starting on September 16, highlights its commercial value.

Robert Hutchinson, 47, one of four brothers who founded the business as a small independent butcher in the early 1990s, said: “We have gone to a lot of trouble and expense to earn the Red Tractor, and other accreditations, but it is worth it.

“The last few years have been really tough, and a lot of butchers have gone to the wall. But we invested, and kept our emphasis on quality, and now we are doing well.”

Sales manager Weston Wright, 50, added: “We are coming to the busiest period of the year now. Last year was poor, because the Olympics really hit the London restaurant trade, but this year looks like it is going to be good.”

The firm employs 130 workers, about half at the WGC factory and offices, and the rest at a distribution depot in Wembley, north London.

Every day, hundreds of lorry loads of fresh meat products, all cut, packed and labelled in Welwyn Garden City, are delivered to customers, including restaurants, hotels, and contract caterers, across southern England.

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To earn the Red Tractor logo, which is displayed on the firm’s products and subject to annual audits, Mr Hutchinson and his employees have to prove all their meat meets the required standards, from farm through auction house and abattoir to wholesaler.

As the scheme puts an emphasis on traceability, each label provides detailed information on an individual product’s history and provenance.

Of course, British Premium Meat’s own premises and processes have to meet the same rigorous standards, but they devote considerable effort to ensuring their suppliers’ standards do not slip.

The scheme was given a major boost in February this year, when several meat products sold by Tesco and other major supermarkets were found to contain horse.

Mr Hutchinson said: “That really made people think about things like traceability, which is very important for us.

“A lot of people are prepared to pay a bit more for a quality product now, and they are more concerned about where their meat comes from.

“It [the horse meat scandal] must have been good for farmers as well.”

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