Consumers expectations of sustainable British red meat will see the sector face increased scrutiny in the future, industry has said.
Nina Prichard, head of sustainable and ethical sourcing at McDonald’s UK and Ireland, one of the UK’s biggest beef buyers, said the current base expectations on food quality, safety and traceability were not ‘good enough’, and urged industry not to be complacent about improvements.
Speaking at NFU Cymru’s The Red Meat Food Chain webinar on Wednesday July 22, Ms Prichard said: “For our consumers, food safety and quality are of the upmost importance.
“At McDonald’s we look at economics, ethics and environmental to make sure our beef farmers are farming in a sustainable way – if the farm business is profitable, if animals and employees are well cared for and treated fairly and if beef is produced without depleting natural resources.
“We have a real opportunity in the UK to achieve and capitalise on our three ’e’s’ but we must continue to improve standards and face increased scrutiny if we are to reach some of the sustainability goals our consumers are calling for in light of climate change.”
Ms Prichard also highlighted the importance of a collaborative approach to find solutions to some of these challenges and ensure a thriving UK beef industry.
But Norman Bagley, head of policy at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, was quick to point out the disparity about the importance of standards between domestic and external markets.
Mr Bagley said: “Data suggests importing countries place less value on animal welfare, with their markets favouring other aspects, such as eating quality, and this is where we should focus more of our attention.”
Looking at imports, Mr Bagley said it was unlikely a US deal will undercut British beef producers on price since the US has started to develop significant outputs of hormone free beef which will come at a higher price to consumers.
He also predicted there would not be an increase in competition from New Zealand for the sheep meat sector, since the UK does not meet current import quotas, with higher export markets elsewhere.
Earlier this week the National Sheep Association said it remained ’nervous’ about a trade deal with New Zealand, despite Government assurances that any agreement must ‘work for UK farmers’.
In its assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/901870/uk-strategy-uk-nz-free-trade-agreement.pdf&source=gmail&ust=1595513432258000&usg=AFQjCNG7IUZLo7dzPfNjqHcBiFzvajBaJg">negotiating objectives, the UK Government promised not to compromise on standards, but went on to say New Zealand imports would only have to meet the UK’s food safety requirements – not its animal welfare ones.