European dairy giant Arla Foods has signed an agreement covering the beef supply chain of Morrisons, the UK’s fourth-largest food retailer.

In what the two companies described as an industry first, Morrisons is to allow bull calves from its dairy suppliers also participating in the Arla UK 360 programme into the retailer’s beef supply chain.

Dairy farmers will be able to sell bull and beef calves into the calf-rearing units of Buitelaar Production, Morrisons beef rearing partners. Belgian and British Blue crossed breeds may go on to form part of Morrisons’ beef supply chain.

Arla UK 360 is a programme the Lurpak butter launched in the country last year to try to “bring sustainable change to dairy farming”. The programme takes in areas such as animal welfare and the environment. One of the programme’s standards requires no healthy calf be shot or slaughtered before eight weeks of age.

Graham Wilkinson, agriculture director for Arl’s UK business, said: “This move by Morrisons to open up its supply chain to further support our owners, represents everything the Arla UK 360 programme envisioned. Arla’s farmer owners see opportunities to evolve farming if we make a supply chain that works for everyone. This decision and the support through the supply chain with Buitelaar is the perfect example of how bigger change can be delivered in agriculture if we all work together.”

In a further statement, Buitelaar added: “We share the view of Arla that every calf should have a value and purpose. With 30% of UK beef being imported into the UK, working across the supply chain and across both beef and dairy in this way could prove a big step in making Britain further self-sufficient in beef.”