Supermarket Waitrose has announced that it is expanding its beef range to include more UK native breeds.

The first supermarket to exclusively stock 100% British beef, Waitrose is pledging to sell more British beef from as many as 20 native breeds. The move will apply to its whole beef range, including pre-packed products in the meat aisle, butchery counters, ready-made meals, sandwiches, stocks and gravies.

Already stocking Hereford and Aberdeen Angus beef, the supermarket is currently introducing Ruby Red, chosen for their quality and taste credentials and farmed to high welfare standards and raised on a natural grass and forage diet. Waitrose’s purchasing policy sees it buying the whole animal, with beef not sold as cuts going in to ready meals or made into burgers and meatballs.

Waitrose cites a number of benefits of moving to a wider range of native beef, including a kinder approach to the environment and more flexibility for their farmer suppliers. It says that this will enable many to revert to the native breeds their families would have farmed in the past, which will help preserve their cultural identity, while helping to bring back lesser-known rare breeds to ensure that breed diversity remains strong across the UK. It also refers to the fact that native breeds are better equipped to deal with our climate, soil and grass and enable farmers to select the breeds best suited to their land so that they can use low-input systems with minimal environmental impact.

Oliver Chadwyck-Healey, Waitrose beef buyer, said: “We are deeply committed to British farming and to offering the highest welfare standards and exceptional quality. By diversifying our beef range and sourcing more from native breeds, we are able to support our farmers by providing them greater flexibility. It also means we can offer our customers exceptionally high quality, higher welfare beef at great value at a time when we know both price and animal welfare are so important to them.”

Adding his comment to Waitrose’s announcement, RBST CEO Christopher Price said: “Native livestock breeds like the Gloucester cow and the British Saddleback pig were bred over centuries to thrive in UK landscapes, but some of these breeds became very rare as agriculture intensified and industrialised in the twentieth century. Native breeds have so much to offer in a more sustainable future for farming where profitable food production goes hand in hand with high welfare standards and supporting the environment. And being slower-grown, native breed meat is both high quality and delicious, with different breeds having distinct tastes and textures. By promoting native breed produce to its customers, Waitrose is helping to create the markets for more farmers to be able to keep these breeds while at the same time providing households with great tasting food.”