Supermarkets have adopted a “bullying culture” aimed at cost saving on farm food, according to a group of cattle producers which has today called on grocers to urgently re-evaluate pricing amid the ongoing horsemeat scandal.
The National Beef Association (NBA) has accused Britain’s top grocers of cutting corners on quality in the hope of saving money and claimed that the retailers’ “short sighted, price-led purchasing tactics” have been deployed “for decades.”
Last month, an investigation by the Food Standards Authority of Ireland found that supermarkets Tesco, Aldi and Dunnes Stores sold beef burgers containing horse and pig DNA and since then the scandal has widened and implicated a number of other grocers as well as suppliers as the Food Standards Authority undertook tests on additional products.
While supermarkets, suppliers and producers have agreed to publish the results of DNA testing of their meat products following a consultation with the Food Standards Authority, the NBA believes more needs to be done to curtail poor practices.
NBA National Director, Chris Mallon said: “They adopted a bullying culture aimed exclusively at securing as much farm food as possible, for as little cost as possible, and the result is tortured supply chains that add so much unnecessary cost that short cuts on quality and traceability, and even cheating by some suppliers, was inevitable.
“These misguided tactics have to be quickly reversed if further collapse in consumer confidence in the UK’s food supply chains is to be avoided.
“This can only be done if a real and permanent effort is made to correct decades of misapplied endeavour and a new approach to food purchasing is adopted.”
Focusing on buying quality food grown on British farms is essential, the group said and called for a reduction in the number of middlemen such as processors to reduce costs where necessary.
Supermarket Morrisons, which is currently in the process of acquiring Jessops stores following the retailer’s collapse into administration last month, was singled out along with upmarket grocer Waitrose for its sound meat processes.
In order to ensure their long-term survival, supermarkets must educate consumers on the true price of food, Mallon said, as we now spend 20 per cent less for food than we did a decade ago, amounting to just 10 per cent of our disposable income and we must be prepared to spend up to 15 per cent in the months and years ahead.
Concentrating on reducing costs is “myopic”, Mallon said and added: “The on-going horsemeat scandal has demonstrated conclusively that consumers only get what they pay for and that continued price reduction will jeopardise food quality.”