A farmers’ co-operative has struck a £1.1 million deal to supply its fresh beef and lamb to a major supermarket in a move that looks set to offer a lifeline to local farmers everywhere.

Marches Quality Meat is the first regional brand of British meat to appear in local supermarkets since Somerfield announced its ‘Regional Promise’ to help farmers build a more secure future for themselves at the start of 2001.

The scheme was launched last month in partnership with the National Farmers’ Union to encourage farmers to band together to develop new markets for their produce and to give them a stronger hand when dealing with suppliers and supermarkets.

Marches Quality Meat was set up in 1997 by a group of farmers with the specific aim of promoting their top quality beef and lamb and now has over 130 members. They contacted the supermarket after hearing about its support for regional brands and convinced Somerfield’s buying team to replace all of its own label fresh beef and lamb with their locally produced meat in 20 stores.

Don Findlay, MD of Marches Quality Meat, said: “This exclusive deal to supply local Somerfield stores has given us the chance to develop a first class brand with a top retailer.

“Our fresh beef and lamb is of excellent quality and is traceable back to the farm of origin. All our animals are grass fed and stocks have been reared with care and attention and individually checked by us.”

Rosemary Price, Somerfield’s buying controller, said: “Our customers want to support their local farmers and they want the reassurance that local foods offer in terms of freshness, quality and traceability.

“We have seen our regional sourcing policy go from strength to strength with shoppers enthusiastically buying local foods and now we are looking to find more farmers who want to supply us with their local produce.

Somerfield and the NFU has set up a free hotline for farmers who want to find out more about supplying local stores and to register their interest to attend a regional roadshow and meet the supermarket’s buyers. It is 0500 691 913.