The story of Celtic Pride, Wales’ leading beef brand, has reached a new chapter with the building of a £5m state-of-the-art butchery in Carmarthenshire.

Now it its 12th year the Celtic Pride Premium Beef scheme is a collaboration between Welsh Livestock Ltd, Castell Howell Foods and Wynnstay Group plc.

The new butchery at Cross Hands Food Park – operating as Celtica Foods Ltd – is part of the Castell Howell complex, and has been built to replace the original smaller butchery unit at Pensarn, Carmarthen.

Members of the Celtic Pride Supplier Group were invited to view the new facilities and learn more about plans for the rapidly growing brand.

“Celtic Pride started as a small acorn and, thanks to the loyalty of farmers, in the last 12 months we’ve increased numbers going through by 15% up to 4,500 cattle.” said Gareth Davies of Wynnstay.

Covering 31,000 square feet the purpose-built unit will eventually house all of Celtic Pride and Castell Howells’ meat processing activities, the extra space enabling the company to expand its operation.

“The butchery is a rapidly growing part of the business, and we need to be able to offer product variation and diversity to provide what the customer needs,” said Tim Rowe, Celtic Pride director and meat technology consultant.

This he explained has meant undertaking a huge up-skilling of staff to satisfy the demands of Celtic Pride’s diverse customer base which includes restaurants, gastro pubs, conferencing centres and large hotels.

The move has provided much needed extra storage facilities and the introduction of new meat-processing methods. When fully operational the butchery will process meat for its own Celtic Pride brand as well as for outside customers and employ in excess of 70 staff.

The unit boasts three large hanging halls each holding up to 80 carcasses. Whereas all Celtic Pride beef is clearly distinguishable, having been stamped at the abattoir and brought to Cross Hands for further maturation by a new articulated lorry owned by Castell Howell.

The scheme is working with its partner abattoirs, Pembrokeshire Abattoir, Maddock Kembery Meats, Cwmni Cig Calon and Randall Parker to introduce a range of post slaughter measures.

Low voltage electrical stimulation helps promote the rapid conversion of blood sugar to lactic acid, subsequently allowing the beef to chill quicker and prevent cold shortening.

Additionally hip suspension is being introduced to further improve the eating quality through a process of stretching the muscle fibres. The carcases are then re-hung in the traditional manner on the traditional Achilles tendon.

Among other new innovations in the pipeline is a computer system providing full traceability, improved internal management and costings. In addition there will be dry ageing facilities as well as a number of other value adding operations.

As part of the butchery’s development a full quality review of the business will be undertaken, from farm to finished product – with customer opinion and feedback a vital component.

Mr Rowe told the farmers they play a hugely important part in the Celtic Pride brand’s success, “The producer group is a key part of the supply chain – but you’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

He highlighted the “fairer” Australian system of grading where the price paid to the farmer is based on a number of quality factors not just deadweight and grade, and emphasised “meat eating quality is the most important thing. Engaging with the needs and satisfaction of the consumer for our products is critical.”

The new facilities met with the approval of the farmers. “I was very impressed it looks a tremendous facility,” said Lindsey Llewellyn who farms in Cowbridge I’d like to come back when it is all complete.”

“It is a huge investment and very impressive,” Owen Rees from Pendoylan.

The farmers had the opportunity to sample some of the beef; prepared by the newly appointed Castell Howell Development Chef Stewart Williams whose role it will be to develop dishes and help customers with menu development

and, where required, training to get the best out of their meat. Based in the butchery’s specially built demonstration kitchen he will to work with customers to promote Welsh meat on their menus.

It is all about giving customers the best eating experience said Edward Morgan, Managing Director Celtica Foods Ltd.

“When people go out for a meal they do not understand what happens in the supply chain they just want a good steak or burger. We want to give them good quality which always performs on the plate.”