The Co-operative apologised today for letting farmers and consumers down over the contamination of horsemeat in products.

Kate Jones, the Co-operative’s head of food product and farms, told the NFU conference in Birmingham that the major retailer and farmer recognised it had to keep supply chains short and simple to deliver the best products.

“We have let customers and you down and we know that. We know they [customers] don’t trust the supermarkets to deliver the products as labelled,” she said.

The relatively new executive at the Co-op promised better collaboration and dialogue to deliver the best products as well as stringent DNA testing, more rigorous working with processors and the launch of new producer groups.

The Co-operative will introduce dedicated farmer groups across poultry, beef, pork and lamb to reassure customers that the protein used in products is reared by British farmers they trust, she said.

Ms Jones claimed the Co-operative was the only retailer to offer 100% British chicken, pork, beef and turkey and was the first to introduce “honest labeling”. Its stores have been selling 100% British beef since 2005.

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