Supermarket giant Tesco has come under fire for selling New Zealand lamb at the height of the British season – despite its claims that it supported UK farmers.
The NFU has already written to all supermarkets to highlight that British grass-fed, spring-born lamb is now in peak season while southern hemisphere lamb, born around a year ago, is at the end of its season.
NFU president Meurig Raymond Raymond said: “Tesco said that with the large demand for lamb, it cannot always guarantee consistent UK stock.
“I find this comment almost as ridiculous as last September’s statement from Tesco that British lamb was not in season at the moment in the UK.”
He was referring to an incident when Cumbrian sheep farmer Linda Allan complained that she could not buy British lamb.
Mother-of-four Mrs Allan, who runs a 200-acre upland farm with 1,000 sheep at Killington with her husband Neil, said at the time: “I was shocked. What hope have British farmers got if this is the attitude of our biggest supermarket?”
Yesterday Mr Raymond said: “I am angry and disappointed that this Tesco action comes only 18 months after it gave such positive undertakings on its sourcing and supply chains for red meat.
“The figures speak for themselves. The UK was self-sufficient in lamb last year and lamb numbers are even higher this year. We have more than enough lamb available.
“I believe that promoting New Zealand lamb over British, and Tesco’s attempts to justify this, misleads consumers about the seasonality of lamb and sends a signal to farmers that Tesco are not prepared to promote the benefits of food produced in the UK.”
He added that it was important that clearly-labelled home-grown lamb was given pride of place in retail outlets, so that consumer could easily find it.
“A YouGov survey commissioned by the NFU after the horsemeat scandal showed that 79% of British people thought that British supermarkets should sell more food produced on British farms.
“This month’s independent Beef & Lamb Watch results will highlight those retailers who aren’t backing British farming and living up to commitments made and we will continue to meet the retailers and meat processors on a regular basis to remind them of their previous commitments on sourcing.”