No Such Thing As British Isles Beef Says NBA

UK - Corporate moves by Anglo-Irish processing companies to blur the distinction between higher priced, home produced, British beef and discounted beef from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) must be strongly resisted, says the National Beef Association.
calendar icon 1 November 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

It is alarmed by pleas from Irish Country Foods, the owners of the ABP processing chain in the UK, for beef from the two countries to be presented to consumers as the same product.

And is also anxious that UK retailers, including J Sainsbury and Asda, do all they can to make consumers aware that British beef and beef from the ROI are from different countries of origin.

“There is no such thing as British Isles Beef,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood. “Beef is either sourced exclusively from cattle that are born, reared, and processed in the UK and labelled British - or it is taken from cattle born, reared and processed in the ROI and labelled Irish. Just because beef is handled by the same processing company does not mean it is from the same country”

“Any move to promote the British Isles, which combines the UK and the ROI, as a single sourcing area works against the UK farmer because it undermines the development of the UK beef industry and damages its efforts to promote, and add value to, British labelled beef.”

The NBA points out that farmers in the ROI produce beef to different assurance standards than those in the UK, that the pricing structure is in euros and not sterling, and there are quite different national emphases in the distribution of the EU’s Single Farm Payment too.

“Currently R4L steers in the ROI average 183p a deadweight kilo (sterling equivalent) compared with 190p in Northern Ireland and 215p across GB and the high volume of the cheaper, imported, Irish product sold through Sainsburys, Asda, and other outlets makes it more difficult to raise the premium on beef that qualifies for the unique, and valued, British label,” said Ms Haywood. “It is quite evident that British consumers prefer beef sold under a British label and that more could be encouraged to pay more for it. This forward development, which would help to protect the future of all beef farmers in the UK, would be undermined if consumers were persuaded to think that British beef and Irish beef had the same brand identity.”

“The NBA’s view is that more effort is needed to raise the profile of British beef and promote both local and regional sourcing within the UK under a range of other labels.”

“If the distinction between the two, quite separate, beef supply pools in the UK and the ROI is not maintained it will be easier for Irish interests to benefit by juggling one market off against the other in price and supply terms.”

“Some retailers already appear to find it hard to distinguish between British and Irish beef. For example trade data confirms that Sainsbury’s imports around 15 per cent of its fresh beef from the ROI yet Sainsbury’s spokesmen have said that 98 per cent of red meat sold through the chain is sourced from the UK,” Ms Haywood added.

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