Asda has backtracked on a promise it made in October commiting the supermarket to 100% British beef, provoking anger from British farmers.
The supermarket said it was forced to change policy only three months after it was implemented due to “significant” price rises for British beef, caused by increased costs across the British meat supply chain.
The company said it will now use a “blended approach” involving a mix of beef from Britain and the Republic of Ireland, while all the beef in its Extra Special tier will remain British.
An Asda spokesperson said: “We know that it is important to our customers that the beef on our shelves has been produced to high welfare standards and is affordable.
“Unfortunately, the price of British beef has risen and whilst we continue to work hard to keep prices as low as possible for our customers, these increases are significant.”
Beef prices have risen 20% since the beginning of the pandemic after fuel, fertiliser and feed costs escalated “at an unbelievable rate,” the National Beef Association (NBA) told Supply Management.
NBA CEO Neil Shand said some feed costs have nearly doubled, while fertiliser costs have more than doubled, and fuel prices have risen by over 10%.
These rising costs have eroded margins for beef producers, leading to increased selling prices.
Shand told SM: “Our members had to feed the country throughout the pandemic and it's really disappointing Asda have turned their back on that.”
He warned increased food prices could be the “new normal”.
Shand continued: “We saw at the back end of last year there wasn't enough HGV drivers and there wasn’t enough staff in certain parts of the food production. The new normal might be where we are, and the days of cheap food for the consumer might be over.”
Richard Findlay, livestock board chairman at the National Farmers' Union, said: “It is incredibly disappointing that Asda has gone back on its commitment to source 100% British beef.
“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.
“Given the significant changes to trade and agricultural policy, it is more important than ever that our retailers champion British food and farming and that, fundamentally, any sourcing commitments they make are honoured.”
Asda’s announcement sees it break away from other major supermarkets including Lidl, Aldi, Morrisons and the Co-operative, which have all commited to sourcing 100% British beef.
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