NFU Scotland meets with Tesco following labelling scandal

After Tesco’s inaccurately marketed New Zealand lamb under signs reading ‘Best Scottish Lamb in season’, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland took action to ensure this kind of fraud is not replicated in the future.

President of the Scottish farming body, Allan Bowie, alongside fellow UK unions, met to discuss the supermarket’s continuing support for British produce. Accompanied by livestock committee chairman Charlie Adam, Bowie and Tesco also met in a standalone meeting, to specifically address the retailer’s support of Scottish Lamb.

“The meeting with Tesco was full and frank, with discussions focused around how the country’s biggest supermarket can increase its volumes of home-produced lamb,” commented Bowie.

“We recognise Tesco is already our biggest customer, but recent weeks have shown that more can clearly be done to support Scottish sheep producers.”

Earlier in the week, data collection body Kantar Worldpanel confirmed that, at 28.2% of the market share, Tesco remains the UK’s biggest supermarket chain. This evidence reiterates the importance of receiving the retailer’s backing in promoting locally sourced produce.

“A clear commitment from the supermarket to increase the volumes sourced would be an excellent starting point to rebuilding relationships with the country’s lamb producers and a stepping stone to establishing more responsible, sustainable supply chains,” Bowie added.

NFU Scotland took this opportunity to voice the anger felt among Scottish Lamb producers at Tesco stocking imported lamb, regardless of Scottish Lamb being at peak season.

Despite their frustration, the meeting coincided with the Union’s shelf-watch examination, which revealed a significant shift towards exclusivity for Scottish and British lamb in recent weeks.

The Union’s policy manager John Armour added: “What a difference a few weeks have made. Other than offal and mince, only one pack of New Zealand lamb was found in all stores visited, with all retailers more clearly committed to stocking home-produced lamb.”

Although the positive news is welcomed, Armour admitted there was still some work that needed to be done. “Mixed mince – containing both British and New Zealand lamb – remains an issue and was discussed with Tesco yesterday. We believe consumers would be better served by being offered a mince clearly labelled as being from a single country of origin.

“On the downside, while virtually every pack of lamb was identified as being British, comparatively little was clearly identified as being Scotch. While we believe that much of the lamb in British packaging in Scottish stores would be Scottish, there is an opportunity at this time of year – on the back of the ‘Wham Bam Thank You Lamb’ campaign and ‘Love Scotch Lamb’ weekend – to get the Scotch label onto shelves and build the Scotch brand.”

Following recent marketing campaigns, NFU Scotland believes that all supermarkets ought to stock exclusively Scottish or British lamb for at least six months of the year.

Additionally, NFU Scotland has joined with other UK unions to meet other key supermarkets – Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Lidl, Iceland and Asda – in recent weeks to discuss their continuous support of British meat.

The meeting comes after Defra recently revealed that four in five people think we should be supporting local food producers. They claimed that 40% of the British public would purchase meat if a local option was available.

Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss said that local labelling, including showing what farm or country the food was from, would assist consumers taking pride in buying British produce.

“Our one-nation government is doing more than ever to support British farmers and producers by creating the right environment for these small businesses to flourish,” remarked Truss.

“This means supporting better country-of-origin labelling, to ensure shoppers can get behind our British farmers, and building better broadband and transport links so it’s as easy to open and expand a business in Cornwall as it is in Camden.”

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