Enquiries by the National Beef Association reveal that the farm assurance requirements on Brazilian imports fall well short of the standards set in the UK.
It has discovered that far from achieving parity with tough UK rules Brazilian assurance is low on welfare, environmental protection demands are virtually non-existent, and the principles are set, not by independent farmer led groups, but by a powerful group of EU retailers.
"In addition to this consumers are encouraged to believe standards applying to imported Brazilian beef measure up to the much more stringent demands that must be met by UK farmers - and so these imports are less likely to be rejected," explained NBA chief executive, Robert Forster.
"The most commonly used beef scheme in Brazil is a section of the Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) standard operated by EUREP-GAP which is based in Germany."
"Although it is well written, and often uses the same words as the UK schemes, it is significant that EUREP-GAP is the acronym for European Retailer Produce Group Accreditation Process - which means the scheme is supermarket, and not producer, led."
The NBA describes IFA as a modular scheme covering a range of farm enterprises.
"For Brazilian beef producers to qualify it is necessary to stack up the elements contained within its All Farm Base Module, its Livestock Base Module and then its Cattle and Sheep Module, "said Mr Forster.
"Within these three there are the IFA's three principles which contain 175 control points that require some level of compliance. Compliance levels are categorised into "Major Musts" of which there are 73 which have to hit 100% compliance, then 59 "Minor Musts" which require a compliance level of 90%, and then 43 "Recommendations" which are voluntary and can be ignored."
"This means that over the whole of the IFA beef standard an average compliance level of just 72% will secure assured status compared with a compulsory 100 per cent here in the UK - allowing for a month to correct any non-compliance discovered on annual inspection."
And according to the NBA the assurance standard for Brazilian beef imports is further undermined because the IFA does not have an animal welfare section, although a sprinkling of welfare matters are in place in other sections, and almost 80% of its environmental section, and waste and pollution management sections, are covered by non-compulsory recommendations.
"In other words environmental and welfare targeted tick boxes, which are such a powerful element of UK farm assurance, and which UK supermarkets insist on, are either almost non-existent or need only be complied with voluntarily - which means they can be safely ignored, " said Mr Forster.
"UK supermarkets importing Brazilian beef have said they require their suppliers to add extra requirements beyond those covered by EUREP-GAP but have still to reveal exactly what these are - or give details of any independent audit."
"Until they do, and until it is possible to directly compare the assurance standards on their imports with those they demand in the UK it is impossible for them to claim it has assurance parity with home produced beef and they should make sure that consumers who buy Brazilian beef are aware of this."