A dangerous gambit

While I have every sympathy with farmers who are facing unfair competition from cheap, unassured meat coming into the UK, the NFU's campaign against Asda this week left something of a nasty taste in my mouth.

Using the spectre of Foot and Mouth Disease to bash a

supermarket is a dangerous game. Consumers only have to hear the words 'disease' and 'beef' and, regardless of the facts, we could see them stampede away from the

category - be it imported Brazilian, or prime Herefordshire.

With our friends in the media ready to leap on any food-scare story that comes along, mutterings of FMD and imported beef is a risky strategy.

In fact, the Daily Mail recently had the nerve to run an article by Joanna Blythman bemoaning the fact

consumers were now lilylivered cowards when it comes to food - blithely ignoring the part it (and she) has played in creating that consumer mindset with scare story upon scare story.

However, the article illustrates the point that the UK consumer is a nervy beast, liable to over-react to half-baked facts and newspaper hysteria. When you put this into context with the fact that Asda claims that less than 1% of its beef comes from Brazil, and the MLC stats which reports that Brazilian meat makes up 32,300 tonnes of total imports of 235,000t, the biggest question left is, why bother?

I appreciate the concerns farmers may have over the traceability of meat and agree that the situation with Asda was unacceptable. However, I'm just not keen on their methods. Farmers would be better off sitting back, enjoying the sunshine and watching everyone's meat fly off the shelves, rather than launch an

unnecessary and dangerous PR campaign - one which could easily backfire and de-rail all beef sales.

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