Farming News - Asda under fire after it retracts British beef promise made last October

Asda under fire after it retracts British beef promise made last October

07 Jan 2022
Frontdesk / Livestock

Asda has backed out of a commitment it made in October to stock exclusively British beef, angering farmers who say Asda’s decision is “incredibly disappointing” given the recent rise in fertiliser costs.

The supermarket had called on major supermarkets to "fully commit to championing British produce by properly supporting our homegrown producers" and to paying farmers a fair price that reflects the true cost of beef production to the highest welfare standards. 

The supermarket chain has blamed rising prices in the UK for taking the decision to stock cheaper produce from the ROI to “deliver the best value for customers”.

The decision is embarassing for George Eustice, the environment secretary, as he had called on farmers to stand up to retailers “to ensure that the money they are paid reflects the costs of their production”. Eustice had also claimed that despite rising farm gate prices this did not mean it would have to translate to higher prices in the shops.

Other supermarkets including Lidl, Aldi, Morrisons and the Co-op still have commitments to source 100% British beef.
 
Industry Anger

Hannah Anderson,Managing Director of ethical online food retailer 44 Foods calls the decision "another sudden blow to those already struggling across the farming industry." 

“We know from working with our own producers that over recent years, British farmers have faced many challenges with prices being well below the cost of production, resulting in a declining British beef herd. Recent increases in prices for livestock, rising feed prices, labour and fuel have added even more pressure. 

“We’ve been open and honest with our own customers, contacting them back in April to explain the reasoning behind price increases for our beef products. That's why it’s so disappointing to see this latest announcement from ASDA in what is another sudden blow to those already struggling across the farming industry.

“Inflation and deflation of beed prices are determined by many independent variables including consumer demand, supply of livestock and imports. By supporting our British farmers you enable them to re-invest in their businesses, ensuring their viability, allowing them to raise their stock to the highest welfare standards and it means that they can continue to offer customers the best quality British beef. 

“We’ve seen through our own business that customers are willing to pay that little bit more for the peace of mind that their meat hasn’t been imported from far and wide and want to support British producers. We know that the demand is there and it's time for bigger supermarkets to fully commit to championing British produce by properly supporting our homegrown producers."

The National Beef Association (NBA) chief executive Neil Shand said he was "deeply disappointed" by Asda's choice.

He said "Farmers are struggling with feed, fertilizer and energy costs escalating at rates "never seen before

"Our supermarkets need to support domestic producers as much as possible - now more than ever." 

Asda said their policy had changed because of the rise in British beef prices.

"Whilst we continue to work hard to keep prices as low as possible for our customers, these increases are significant", a spokesperson said.

All fresh beef in Asda's premium Extra Special tier will remain 100% British and all of their fresh beef will be sourced from farms in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

In response to Asda's shift, Deborah Deymond, a beef farmer who has a herd of 80 cattle in Rattery, told the BBC: "Farmers believe in long term commitments and so should supermarkets".

"I was so pleased to hear they had made the pledge in October but think it's disgraceful they're not supporting British farmers more".

"You cannot have a good product for next to nothing prices and supermarkets should value domestic farmers properly," she added.

National Farmers Union (NFU) livestock board chairman Richard Findlay, was also disappointed and said that, given the "significant" changes to trade and agricultural policy, it was "more important than ever" for retailers to "champion" British farmers.

Mr Findley said that any sourcing commitments made by supermarkets need to be honoured.

“We praised them for supporting UK agriculture. To be clear, others were already doing it, they were not leading the way but they are one of the larger retailers so it was welcomed," he said.

“It is a bit of a cop out. Others are sticking to their commitments. They have chickened out really.”

"Our beef is renowned for its quality and high production standards, and retail support plays a big part in enabling farmers to make further investments in climate and environmentally-friendly food production," he added.

NFU President Minette Batters said on twitter: "This government has a role to play in ending the worsening retail price war. We need a radicle rethink on what our trading environment should look like outside the EU."