Farmers with a beef over mixing

UK - SCOTLAND'S beef producers are among the best in the world and their product commands a considerable premium, with finishers currently receiving around 15p per kilo deadweight more than their counterparts in England and Wales. However, industry attempts to raise the profile still higher are being thwarted by several leading supermarket chains, who are continuing to mix Scotch beef on shelves and cabinets with cheaper imports.
calendar icon 28 February 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
This practice is known as "co-mingling" and appears to becoming more common, according to Robert Forster, the chief executive of the National Beef Association (NBA). Speaking to a meeting of farmers in Lauder yesterday, Forster described co-mingling as the "new front line" in the long struggle to secure higher returns for producers.

He added: "Co-mingling confuses supermarket customers and makes it more difficult to establish higher prices for the Scottish product. At present, the biggest supermarkets, with the exception of Morrison, are driving a coach and horses through an EU regulation which insists that beef from different countries of origin is physically separated by at least a plastic strip. If it is muddled up there must be notices saying that products of mixed origin are for sale and consumers must examine the labels so that they can be certain about what they are buying."

The regulation also state that if the saltire, or any other Scottish emblems, are used to frame a chill cabinet, then it can only contain Scottish products. Farmers, and especially their wives and partners, have been regularly pointing out to local authorities that co-mingling is widespread, but so far no prosecutions have been mounted.

According to Forster, the supermarkets have mounted a determined counter campaign to persuade the regulators to back off and allow co-mingling to continue. He added: "The NBA is very clear. If supermarkets bullying tactics on product mixing continue, and our efforts to force through test case prosecutions through environmental health officers are thwarted, it will take the issue to the public and all the UK parliaments.

"Co-mingling is a deliberate attempt by retailers to make more money from cheaper imported beef and accept less for more expensive home-produced beef by mixing them up. It's not just pushing more Scottish farmers close to profit collapse because it is forcing down Scottish cattle prices, it is also a flagrant anti-Scottish gesture.

Source: The Scotsman
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