What right do supermarkets have to jeopardise rural livelihoods, and the preservation of the UK’s beautiful landscapes, by offering food items that are sold for less than their cost of production?
This important question is being asked by the National Beef Association which is alarmed at the unflagging enthusiasm with which Britain’s biggest retailers present high cost beef at deep discount prices - and fears the practice could become routine.
“Their accountants may like totting up figures which show that high turnover of a popular product they acquire on the cheap generates huge income – and perhaps more importantly pulls in customers who would otherwise spend their money at another company’s store,” accuses NBA chairman, Oisin Murnion.
“But if home produced beef continues to be undersold because it is used as a price lure by continuously warring multiples, the losers will ultimately be consumers themselves because the cattle which supply the product, will steadily disappear from the countryside which will quickly look ragged and unkempt as a result.”
The NBA is sure of its ground. It says beef from cattle reared in front of everyone’s eyes in British fields, or on British farms, is a high quality, high welfare, product that cannot be matched in provenance terms by any beef imported from elsewhere.
But more importantly beef cattle not only play an important role in keeping the British countryside neat and tidy, they are also unsung heroes in the fight to keep the widest possible range of song birds, shy mammals, beautiful butterflies and wild flowers on hand for the British public to enjoy.
“If our beef breeding herds were not grazing the hills and uplands, or the low lying land behind our cities, life would be much more difficult for these sensitive species because they would have to fight for survival amongst thickets of unsightly thorn and scrub,” explained Mr Murnion.
“At the moment our cattle are knocking down this nasty stuff before it has a chance to become unsightly, and eating up young rough stuff before it gets untidy, and so make our pastures smoother, and greener, and capable of nurturing a wider variety of wildlife too.”
“But if supermarkets continue to sell beef at substantially less than it costs the famer to produce it, more of these cattle will disappear. The Association has warned the multiples of the long term consequences of their short-sighted pricing polices – but they take no notice.”
“This is why we are telling the public. They are being lured into buying cheap beef because the supermarkets use it as a weapon in their price wars. However none of the multiples are telling their customers that the real long term outcome of selling underpriced beef will be degraded and unsightly fields and hillsides that none of the public will find this welcoming or attractive.”
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