Farm diversification and growth with LEADER enables sustainable local beef production

A farmer with no previous catering or butchery experience was given the confidence to diversify thanks to a £16,000 LEADER Programme grant.

Rob Pratt runs Marbled Meats from his family farm in Northall, Leighton Buzzard, where he raises lambs and Wagyu cows. With LEADER support he is now able to process carcasses and sell from the farm gate.

“Our aim is to produce the best beef and lamb products possible, ones that taste better than those from supermarkets,” says Rob of he and his team’s plans for growth. “If we can get that aspect right, then the fact that we have the animals from birth, raise them grass-fed and process them ourselves, and then sell them direct from our farm; gives our customers the confidence they want and need when buying meat products.”

It wasn’t always so for Marbled Meats, who previously relied on others for processing and selling their meat. In the knowledge that taking control of the whole process would give his customers the necessary confidence, he began to formulate plans for diversification. But with no previous sales or butchery experience, Rob was in need of practical and moral support.

The LEADER team there every step of the way

“I knew about the LEADER programme and the support they offer rural businesses,” explains Rob, “so I got in touch and was immediately supported by the team. I wanted to purchase a catering trailer and to install our own processing facilities at our farm, and received a £16,000 grant in order to do so.

“The LEADER team were there every step of the way with me. It felt like they were on my side and wanted me to get the funding.”

With his farm now equipped with processing facilities and a brand new catering trailer with which to sell directly to customers at events and from his farm, Rob has been able to hire an additional full-time employee, and another on a part-time basis for butchery.

Grant leads to turnover increase 

With his Wagyu beef, smoked cheese and brioche bun burgers proving to be a hit at weddings and events such as the Bucks County Show, the catering side of the business has really taken off. Rob is also supplying meat to a select number of local pubs and restaurants. His turnover has increased two and a half times since receiving the grant and he has also managed to maintain a premium price for his products - in effect isolating his business from the numerous fluctuations in the beef market.

LEADER takes business to new heights

“I wouldn’t have been brave enough to go through with it all if it hadn't been for LEADER,” says Rob. “LEADER gave us the confidence we needed. And when you have confidence in what you are doing and what you are selling, you are better able to interact with customers and get more sales.”

Rob is in no doubt as to the role the LEADER grant has played in this development. “First, LEADER was our safety net, giving us the confidence we needed to dream big. Then, LEADER became our springboard, helping to take us to new heights.”

“I feel I now have a business that I enjoy and it’s sustainable enough to create a legacy for my children.”

The LEADER programme is designed to support rural businesses to create jobs, and support the rural economy. Find out more.