The promise by Sainsbury's to ditch the Red Tractor logo - which identifies a product as having British origin credentials as well as welfare, safety and traceability standards - could open the way for the company to import even more, much cheaper, non-UK beef, the National Beef Association has warned.
“This could contradict promises that Sainsburys intend to offer a high level of support to British farmers as well as reassurances about the backing it repeatedly says it wants to give the UK agricultural industry,” said NBA chairman, Hamish McBean.
“The Association is extremely disappointed at this action which has been announced at a time when, on a like for like basis, British prime beef cattle, with the help of high Red Tractor recognition among consumers, are around £200 a head more expensive than those produced in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) which already plays an important part in the Sainsbury beef supply chain.”
“At present beef from high quality, UK origin cattle is presented to consumers at Sainsbury’s in packs which clearly display the Red Tractor. This gives purchasers confidence that the product has been produced to controlled British standards - which is expensive to the farmer but helps to maintain sales as well as encourage beef farmers to maintain future supplies.”
“However when the Red Tractor is removed from J Sainsbury’s beef packs, perhaps to be replaced with an all-embracing own brand label which could also cover imports, it will be more difficult, or perhaps even impossible, for regular consumers who wish to buy British to distinguish between beef of British origin which is backed by British standards and imported beef produced under different rules.”
“This being the case we believe it is inevitable that many consumers will take beef home believing it to be British when it may not be and we think Sainsbury’s should be aware of this because there is every indication the majority would be disappointed if they ever discovered it was not.”
“We suspect that Sainsbury’s is ready to drop the Red Tractor because it hopes to be able to confirm the high standards of the products it retails without the labels help.”
“However the National Beef Association would like to suggest that, unless it intends to replace the Red Tractor with an equally robust assurance scheme including a easily identified Union Jack, this would be a grave mistake because there is strong loyalty to British beef and other British products and many of the consumers who positively favour UK origin beef would turn instead to rival retailers who will continue to offer it under the well understood umbrella reassurances provided by the Red Tractor label,” Mr McBean added.
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