Co-op expands British meat initiative

The Co-op has boosted its support for British farmers, announcing a move to 100% British sourcing for all fresh bacon and lamb.

The grocery retailer claims the initiative would make it the only major UK food retailer to stock 100% own-brand fresh British beef, chicken, pork, lamb, bacon and turkey. It is already the only retailer to use British meat in all its chilled ready meals, pies and sandwiches, it says.

Under a three-year plan, the convenience retailer pledged to invest a minimum of £1.5bn in sourcing UK meat and vegetables. Its announcement comes at the start of Love British Food Fortnight, which runs from 17 September to 2 October and this year is sponsored by the Co-op.

Great British brand

Welcoming the announcement, environment secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “The Great British brand is renowned across the globe for its quality, innovation and tradition. From our world-famous Welsh lamb to the classic bacon sandwich, British meat is not only delicious but also produced to the highest standards of quality, welfare and safety.

“We should rightly have pride in Britain’s reputation for producing quality meat and today’s announcement is a real vote of confidence in our farmers and an industry that is the bedrock of our economy. It’s great to see the Co-op taking the lead to celebrate the best of British and supporting our Great British Food campaign.”

Steve Murrells, retail chief executive, The Co-op, said: “We are a major supporter of British farming. This move is a first for a major food retailer and will see us invest millions more into sourcing home produced goods.

“It’s an exciting time at the Co-op and our growing confidence is shown by our investment in UK farming as we do business a better way to meet consumer demand.”

'Resounding endorsement'

Zoe Davies, National Pig Association chief executive, said: “This is an important step for the Co-op and is a resounding endorsement for British farming. It’s important retailers do more than rollout the bunting in their aisles to support UK farming and switching to home-produced bacon is the strongest move a retailer can make.”

The change to 100% British lamb entails the Co-op supporting about 1,700 British sheep farms each year across England, Scotland and Wales. The all-year-round supply will be achieved by farming a variety of native breeds that produce lambs at different times of the year, promoting breed diversity across British lamb producers.

British lamb is produced to some of the highest welfare standards. All lamb and bacon produced will be 100% Red Tractor assured and has met rigorous standards from farm to pack.

The in-store switch to 100% British bacon and lamb will be from 1 May 2017 to enable supplies to be sourced.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) welcomed the move. NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “We applaud this bold move by the Co-op to sell only British lamb and bacon. In a week that saw farmers and politicians unite at Westminster to back our industry, this decision shows a real commitment to quality British food and the farmers that produce it.

“The public tells us time and again that they want to see more British food on supermarket shelves and it’s fantastic to see that the co-op has recognised this and realised that it makes strong business sense to support British farmers.

“In the face of market uncertainty post-Brexit, the Co-op’s commitment to source British lamb all year round is particularly important in providing the support and stability to help British sheep farming thrive and sends a clear message that British lamb really is the best in the world.”

The Co-op’s extended pledges include:

  • Invest a minimum of £1.5bn between 2015-18 to source ‘own brand’ British meat, produce and dairy products from the UK
  • It will provide only 100% fresh British bacon, lamb, beef, chicken, ham, pork, sausages, and turkey
  • Only use British meat in all chilled ready meals, pies and sandwiches (except when using a continental meat eg chorizo)
  • Commit to openness and transparency by highlighting sourcing in a sustainability report and to produce a detailed report on our progress each year
  • Market British products honestly, clearly identifying British products on packaging and in store 
  • Develop relationships with its produce grower base and provide greater availability of seasonal produce. 
  • The Co-operative will extend its Farming Groups 
  • It will only source 100% British milk

Love British Food

Love British Food is the national campaign dedicated to promoting British food and educating consumers about the benefits of buying British. The national food promotion takes place every autumn and is the largest food participation event in the UK.

Hundreds of shops, pubs and restaurants take part with special menus and promotions and many schools use it as an opportunity to teach children about food. Women’s Institutes, care homes, councils, hospitals, universities, children’s centres, Young Farmers and markets also participate.

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