THE National Beef Association has singled out supermarket giants Morrisons and Tesco for their on-shelf commitment to British beef.
According to the latest Taylor Nelson Soffres (TNS) retail survey data, 97%-98% of the fresh beef sold through Morrisons since January 2006 has been British, while Tesco had 85%-96% of its fresh beef sold over the same period purchased from UK sources.
The NBA says Tesco – often thought of as the “bad boy” of British supermarkets by the farming community, actually has a much better record than others.
Unfortunately for the majority of consumers who want to buy quality British beef over one third of Asda and Sainsbury’s beef is imported.The bulk of this comes from the Irish Republic.
More precisely in the four weeks ending June 17 this year over 56% of fresh beef sold through Asda was imported – which means less than 44% was British.
And over the same May-June period almost 30% of fresh beef on Sainsbury’s shelves was Irish.
Another 4% was imported from elsewhere.
National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster said: “The fact that Morrisons and Tesco are each operating a Britain-first purchasing policy, and using imports only as a top-up, at a time when British farmers are trying to adjust to a world without subsidies is encouraging.
“Asda also appears to be switching its stance on taking the lazy option on imports and has recently announced that it is expanding its ‘Buy British’ policy on beef.
“Indeed, it has predicted a 12% increase in British beef purchases over 2008 to supply its highest retail price ranges.
“This has to be welcomed as a much needed step in the right direction, although more British product must still be used to service Asda’s standard sections.”
Mr Forster added: “This leaves Sainsbury’s, which appears wedded to commodity conveyor belt principles, still to act and commit to giving its customers more opportunity to buy home produced beef.
“The British beef industry can no longer live on fine words. Actions are what count,” said Mr Forster.
“An immediate and major show of support by Sainsbury’s would be to commit to helping their customers to make informed choices by ending the practice of mixing meat of different origin on shelf.”
Mr Forster added that not only would the ending of co-mingling send a positive signal to British farmers, it would also help retailers understand the depth of the consumer support enjoyed by British beef which at present some retailers appeared determined to ignore.