British farmers lambaste Tesco for finding Irish beef ‘better quality’

British farmers have blasted UK retailer Tesco, accusing the giant of using a “cheapest first” policy when buying beef – following the retailer’s claims of finding Irish beef to be better quality.

The UK-based National Beef Association (NBA) claimed that it was contacted by consumers in England this month complaining about the lack of British beef available on shelves during the festive period.

When consumers questioned the supermarket giant as to the lack of British product available, Tesco said: “We are constantly reviewing product quality on the beef that is purchased and – at this moment – we are finding the beef from Ireland to be of a better quality for our customers.

This is the reason for you seeing so much Irish beef on the shelves, customer satisfaction is very important to us and we are constantly monitoring our products.

Cutting response

Commenting on Tesco’s response, chief executive of the NBA Chris Mallon said: “It is shameful for Tesco to blame the quality of British product for its absence on Tesco shelves.

“The real reason is their buying policy, which prioritises ‘cheapest first’. It shows a complete disregard for Tesco’s UK suppliers to put out statements falsely informing consumers that British product is inferior, instead of admitting that they source on price.

“Tesco’s decision to abandon British beef on the run up to Christmas can be explained by a snapshot of prices paid to farmers, for the week ending the November 18 – when supermarkets were sourcing meat for the festive season.

The British average price was 378.9p/kg, whilst ROI was – in sterling terms – 333.7p/kg. Hence, ROI beef was a cheap substitute to British beef and, therefore, more appealing to Tesco red meat buyers.

Mallon claimed that, having spoken to several meat processors, none had experienced any problems with the quality or availability of British beef at the end of 2017 – describing Tesco’s comments as “a blatant lie”.

The British CEO warned that, post-Brexit, the Tesco ‘cheapest first’ buying policy will be destructive to British farmers and consumers.

Mallon ended with a swipe at British beef imports, claiming that the retailer’s buying policy will eventually reduce choice as British producers leave the industry from being “swamped with food produced under standards unacceptable in the UK”.