Farmers for Action has described talks with senior management at ABP’s meat processing plant over plummeting beef prices as a “work in progress” – and insisted more must be done to help domestic beef producers.

The farming lobby group, which led the milk price protests in 2012, launched a protest against ABP at its Shrewsbury plant on Thursday night (5 June) over falling beef prices and imported beef.

More than 80 farmers took part in the demonstration, which was organised amid claims that ABP was processing Polish meat in the abattoir at the expense of British beef.

About one hour into the protest, FFA chief executive David Handley (pictured above, centre, speaking to farmers during the protest) and other FFA members and farmers, were invited into the factory.

They were given “open access” to the company’s books, which documented delivery dates and vehicles used for meat deliveries over the past few months.

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Mr Handley said afterwards that he was “satisfied” that Polish lorries, which FFA members believed had been going in and out of the site, had in fact been entering the neighbouring Staffordshire Bye-products site.

But ABP has insisted all along that Staffordshire Bye-products, a division of Shropshire Wholesale Meat Company, has no connection with its own operations.

Mr Handley told Farmers Weekly on Friday (6 June): “We are perfectly satisfied in respect of ABP that what they showed us was completely open-book.

“Yes, they have been utilising Polish beef. But we were shown all the labelling put on the product for the customers’ concerns. “Every single label clearly stated that the Polish beef was slaughtered in Poland and distributed in the UK.

“We are unhappy about this because of the issues such as traceability, farm assurance, and so on.

“It gives the customers choice – at least they know they are buying Polish beef, if that’s what they want.”

ABP, which recently opened two beef processing plants in Poland, had been processing up to 2t per week of Polish beef in its Shrewsbury factory.

The company said the meat was part of a “food service industry contract”, which had finished.

Currently, ABP is not processing any Polish material in its Shrewsbury factory.

Mr Handley said ABP did not disclose to him where the Polish beef packaged in the factory had been distributed.

“They were very open. Up until this last couple of weeks, they have been processing Polish beef,” Mr Handley added.

“They have been doing it for a customer from their plant in Poland and distributing it from ABP UK.

“They showed us a sample of the labelling that is on the package. It clearly states ‘Polish beef’.”

Although Mr Handley said the talks with ABP were “very constructive” he warned that there were still key issues to be resolved over the next two to three weeks.

These include a review of:

  • The current price ABP pays British beef farmers for their supply
  • Delay times for domestic cattle being taken to slaughter.

“We agreed last night that these issues are a work in progress over the next fortnight,” said Mr Handley.

“We want to work with ABP for the benefit of British beef farmers. But progress must be made.”

An ABP spokesman said: “ABP met with representatives of FFA in Shrewsbury last night (5 June).

“It was an extremely constructive meeting which covered a number of issues. ABP were happy to clarify that we do not process any Polish meat in our UK processing sites.

“We clarified that there is no relationship between ABP and a neighbouring company, Staffordshire Bye-Products, which exports to the European market.

“Historically, we have processed a small volume – less than 2t/week – of Polish beef, which has been clearly labelled correctly with country of origin.”

Picture posted on Twitter by Jimbob (@jbwills007)