01 August, 2006

The Soil Association has been accused of being too controlling and rail-roading butchers selling organic meat into applying for expensive third-party verification.



It follows a BBC documentary which alleged nine in every 10 butchers have been unwittingly breaking the law. In it a Surrey butcher shows the BBC paperwork proving the meat comes from organic farms but admits his shop is not certified.

Many butchers, it seems, are unaware that if they cut up meat or make sausages they count as processors and must be certified by an approved certification body.


As a result of this documentary, butchers feel they are being pressurised by officials from the Soil Association to sign up to the body's verification process which claims to offer a cheaper deal than the offical £500 cost.


The Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association (SFMTA) and the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders (NFMFT) said the requirement, that was actually enshrined in Organic Regulations 1992, is likely to meet with great resistance from butchers. "We will tell our members what the law requires them to do but it will meet with great resistance with some saying 'let's forget it and not bother selling organic meat'," said the SFMTA's Douglas Scott.


Graham Bidson, of the NFMFT, said the requirements, according to Defra, state that the only way it would be possible for a butcher not to require inspection would be for the meat to be pre-prepared and labelled by a certified organic cutting/packing plant. "The butcher might as well as change his name to Tommy Tesco because these rules virtually hand over the organic trade to the supermarkets," he said.


Both Scott and Bidston insist any trader who deliberately sells non-organic meat labelled as organic deserves to be dealt. But, Bidston added that butchers who have bought organic meat and dealt with it in the required manner should not need third-party verification from the Soil Association which he says is "after all just a trade association".


He questioned whether the public were aware that "it is not necessarily the often quoted extra effort that goes into producing organic food that raises the cost, but the fact that someone is taking a large slice for themselves in the middle".

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