Tesco move in right direction

The National Beef Association is pleased that Tesco has volunteered to advise customers who shop at its Scottish stores to check retail beef packs for country of origin and highlight that only its Scottish packs display the Saltire flag.

This welcome move, which should focus consumer attention more accurately on Scottish beef, follows complaints by the NBA that customers shopping at a number of supermarket chains in Scotland have been confused, because prominent display of the Saltire at fresh meat counters can suggest that all the beef on offer is of Scottish origin, when product from more than one country of origin is for sale.

The display guidelines, published by food safety and local authority regulatory body LACORS, make clear its wish that, while it would prefer beef from different countries to be separated by a plastic strip, it is prepared to accept co-mingling as long as the consumer is made aware of it through a prominent notice or bold disclaimer, which makes clear that beef of mixed origin is for sale and advises that individual packs should be examined for precise origin.

Tesco's decision to display a notice - 'Please check our packs for country of origin. Only our Scottish beef packs display the Saltire flag' - is a positive step in the right direction.

The NBA is quite sure that co-mingling prevents consumers from demonstrating exactly how much more they would be prepared to pay for Scottish beef because, under co-mingling, all beef - home-produced or imported - is more easily sold at the same, or similar, prices.

For a long time, the NBA has maintained that without higher retail beef prices, it will be more difficult for large sections of the domestic beef industry to stay in business and for the important premium for home-produced cattle to be raised.

We are hoping that the greater focus on Scottish beef at Tesco stores, which this move should bring, and the adoption of similar tactics by other companies will be one of many ways in which the very necessary lift in the ex-farm price for Scottish and other cattle of UK origin can be achieved.

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