Fight over supermarket co-mingling beef

UK - The excellent reputation of the Scottish beef brand and the Specially Selected Scotch label are well established tools that should be helping the Scottish industry generate more, much needed, income for farmers and processors through quality driven lifts in the retail price.
calendar icon 1 March 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
However industry efforts to raise its earnings by highlighting the Scottish origin of its product are being thwarted by supermarket bosses who appear determined to continue mixing high provenance Scotch beef with cheaper imports.

This was the message passed on to Borders beef farmers on Tuesday (February 27 th) evening by National Beef Association chief executive, Robert Forster .

Speaking at the first of four road shows being staged by the NBA he described the mixing, or co-mingling, of beef from different countries of origin as the “new front line” in the long standing struggle to establish improved earnings for beef the hard pressed beef sector.

“Co-mingling confuses supermarket customers and makes it more difficult to establish higher prices for the Scottish product,” Mr Forster said.

“At present the biggest supermarkets, with the exception of Morrisons , are driving a coach and horses through an EU regulation that insists that beef from different countries of origin is either physically separated, by at least a plastic strip, or if it is muddled up there are notices saying that products of mixed origin are for sale and consumers must examine the labels so they can be certain about what they are buying.”

“The regulators are also saying that if the Saltire , or other Scottish emblems, are used to frame a chill cabinet then the cabinet can only contain Scottish products.

“However farmers who have already helped the NBA put complaints about co-mingling in front of Local Authorities know that all these conditions have been regularly and flagrantly abused.”

According to the NBA the offending multiples have mounted a determined counter campaign to persuade the regulators to back off and allow co-mingling to continue.

“The Association is very clear. If supermarket bullying tactics on product mixing continue, and the Association's efforts to force through test case prosecutions through environmental health officials are thwarted, it will take the issue both to the public and to all the UK 's Parliaments,” he said.

“Co-mingling is a deliberate attempt by retailers to make more money off cheaper imported beef and accept less for more expensive home produced beef, by mixing them up and selling them at similar prices.”

“It is not just pushing more Scottish farmers closer to profit collapse because it is forcing down Scottish cattle prices - it is also a flagrant anti-Scottish gesture.”

“The NBA is interested to see whether the biggest multiples will be ready to take on angry Scottish consumers, and farmers, who do not like to see their Saltire used as a lure so more Argentine. Brazilian, Irish and Uruguayan beef can be sold under its shadow - and who also want to see a fairer price paid for their cattle,” he added.

The NBA's road shows continue next week with presentations at Castle Douglas next Monday evening (March 5 th ), Dingwall on Tuesday evening (March 6 th ) and at Thainstone on Wednesday March 7th.

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