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Retailers face fresh backlash from farm groups as Irish beef floods shelves

Retailers have been accused of shunning British beef in favour of cheap imports at a time when prime cuts are in desperate need of a market.


Retailers face fresh backlash from farm groups as Irish beef floods shelves

It comes as social media was awash with farmers highlighting prime beef stocks in major supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco, were being dominated by Irish products.

With the closure of food service, which typically purchased higher value cuts, and self-isolation driving home consumption of meat due to Covid-19, the move could see further disruption to beef prices as concerns over carcase imbalance continue.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “At a time when retailers should be supporting British farmers more than ever and promoting quality cuts of British beef, it is indefensible that customers who want to support British farmers are only finding Irish cuts on shelves in some stores.”

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But Sainsbury’s has disputed the images, claiming the proportion of Irish beef on sale was ’well within [its] sourcing policy’.

A spokesperson added: “We have a long history of sourcing British as much as we possibly can and this has not changed. In fact, we are selling significantly more British beef than we were this time last year and all our Taste the Difference and So Organic beef remains British.”


NFU livestock chairman Richard Findlay had previously warned 60 per cent of Irish beef had been floating around the market due to a hit to its exports as a result of the pandemic, which he said could ‘pose a risk to our domestic beef market’.


He said: “Sainsbury’s should hang its head in shame. Coordinated efforts by the likes of Morrison’s, which has worked hard to promote British cuts of meat to consumers, clearly demonstrates how the whole carcase can be balanced through the help of these supermarket giants – it is disappointing that more retailers do not aspire to do the same.”

With the demand for cheaper cuts of meat such as mince driving up the beef volume increase by 45 per cent according to AHDB’s latest figures, Ms Batters added: “Sainsbury’s has a policy that it will source 75 per cent British beef – there is no reason whatsoever that this sourcing policy should not be demonstrated in all their stores.”

Social media reaction

Images of Irish beef flooding supermarket shelves have been circulating social media and industry chiefs have taken to Twitter to vent their frustration at what has been deemed a ‘failure’ on behalf of retailers to commit to promoting higher value cuts of British red meat.


The move comes just weeks after major beef processor ABP Food Group supplied 400 tonnes of Polish beef to Sainsbury’s.


Ms Batters added: “[Great British Beef Week] is about celebrating and promoting the incredible beef we have here in Britain.

“This is not what we are seeing from some of our retailers and both farmers and the public are demanding to know why.”

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