| Batting for beef
Legendary England cricketer Ian Botham, called 'Beefy' by his friends, is going to be the public face of a '4.5-million campaign to sell more English beef.
His partner, as part of the same campaign to encourage consumers to eat more English lamb, will be the former England batsman, Allan Lamb, nicknamed 'Lamby'.
Over the next year, animated TV advertisements of Beefy and Lamby will ask shoppers to look out for the seal of the English Beef and Lamb Executive.
Fears aroused by the mad cow disease, as well as the traumatic experience of foot and mouth, when millions of sheep were slaughtered, have persuaded many people in Britain to turn away from red meat towards chicken and fish and, in some cases, to become vegetarian.
The presence of an inspirational cricketer called Beefy, who once defeated the Australians single-handed, appears God-sent to Britain's beleaguered cattle farmers. The match at Headingley in 1981 when he turned certain defeat into an astonishing victory is known as 'Botham's Test'. His innings of 149 has been voted the greatest moment in the history of British sport and '100 per cent Beefy'.
As for Lamb, a South African-born batsman who qualified to play for England, he is now part of a comedy double act that goes round the world making fun of other cricketers.
The Beef and Lamb Chat Show should have regaled Calcutta in November last year but a bandh put paid to the idea and the duo confined their India tour to Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.
Now the couple will be seen as animated cartoon characters in television advertising and in newspapers and magazines over the next year.
Botham and Lamb will tour the country giving interviews in support of English beef and lamb.
The duo was going gung-ho about England's prospects during the Ashes this summer against the visiting Australians.
'England have the best chance to win the Ashes since 1987,' said Lamb. 'All these years, we didn't have the bowlers to bowl out Australia twice. I think this team is capable of that,' he added.
Botham, who is now a cricket commentator, was more beefy. 'I think England will take the Ashes this time. Andrew Flintoff and Steven Harmison will trouble the Aussies in the winter,' he averred.
'The Australians are on a roll right now and look pretty good, but once you get under their skin you can unruffle them. Because most of them are a bit like their country ' big and empty.'
| ...And lamb
The head of marketing for the executive, Andrew Garvey, said: 'This is a huge project to introduce our quality standard mark for beef and lamb to consumers. It already has widespread support from the industry.'
Lamb and beef that meet the scheme's criteria and have been born, raised and slaughtered in England are eligible to be sold under the English version of the quality mark.
The executive's seal will be seen on packs in supermarkets from this month. The quality mark will include the patriotic flag of St George, the red cross on a white background, which is widely flown when England take on other countries ' especially the still-hated Germans ' in football.
Executive spokeswoman Jane Ritchie-Smith said: 'Consumers have a right to expect certain things when buying red meat and one is that it should be of a consistently good quality.'