Corporate moves by Anglo-Irish processing companies to blur the
distinction between higher priced, home produced, British beef
and discounted beef from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) must be
strongly resisted, says the National Beef Association.
It is alarmed by pleas from Irish Country Foods, the owners of
the ABP processing chain in the UK, for beef from the two countries
to be presented to consumers as the same product.
And is also anxious that UK retailers, including J Sainsbury and Asda, do all
they can to make consumers aware that British beef and beef from the ROI are
from different countries of origin.
“There is no such thing as British Isles Beef,” explained NBA director,
Kim Haywood. “Beef is either sourced exclusively from cattle that are born,
reared, and processed in the UK and labelled British - or it is taken from cattle
born, reared and processed in the ROI and labelled Irish. Just because beef is
handled by the same processing company does not mean it is from the same country”
“Any move to promote the British Isles, which combines the UK and the ROI,
as a single sourcing area works against the UK farmer because it undermines the
development of the UK beef industry and damages its efforts to promote, and add
value to, British labelled beef.”
The NBA points out that farmers in the ROI produce beef to different assurance
standards than those in the UK, that the pricing structure is in euros and not
sterling, and there are quite different national emphases in the distribution
of the EU’s Single Farm Payment too.
“Currently R4L steers in the ROI average 183p a deadweight kilo (sterling
equivalent) compared with 190p in Northern Ireland and 215p across GB and the
high volume of the cheaper, imported, Irish product sold through Sainsburys,
Asda, and other outlets makes it more difficult to raise the premium on beef
that qualifies for the unique, and valued, British label,” said Ms Haywood.
“It is quite evident that British consumers prefer beef sold under a British
label and that more could be encouraged to pay more for it. This forward development,
which would help to protect the future of all beef farmers in the UK, would be
undermined if consumers were persuaded to think that British beef and Irish beef
had the same brand identity.”
“The NBA’s view is that more effort is needed to raise the profile
of British beef and promote both local and regional sourcing within the UK under
a range of other labels.”
“If the distinction between the two, quite separate, beef supply pools
in the UK and the ROI is not maintained it will be easier for Irish interests
to benefit by juggling one market off against the other in price and supply terms.”
“Some retailers already appear to find it hard to distinguish between British
and Irish beef. For example trade data confirms that Sainsbury’s imports
around 15 per cent of its fresh beef from the ROI yet Sainsbury’s spokesmen
have said that 98 per cent of red meat sold through the chain is sourced from
the UK,” Ms Haywood added.
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