Asda and Sainsbury’s have been criticised for selling less British beef than other retailers and instead opting for more imported meat.

A survey by AHDB meat services/EBLEX found that just 45% of the fresh beef on sale in selected Asda stores during August this year was produced in Britain, down from 54% a year before.

Just over two-thirds (68%) of the beef on Sainsbury’s shelves was British, down from 74%.

“It is not a coincidence that one of its [Asda’s] major suppliers is Irish Food Processors, which under the AIBP banner owns eight processing plants in the Republic of Ireland, as well as 15 processing and packing plants across the UK under ABP,” said National Beef Association director Kim Haywood.

Irish Food Processors also had an exclusive supply agreement with Sainsbury’s, which meant that it could mix beef from British cattle with beef from similar quality cattle processed in the ROI, where prices were about 13% lower, she said.

By increasing their use of cheaper Irish beef, she accused Sainsbury’s and Asda of helping to hold back British prime cattle prices.

Asda’s agriculture development manager Pearce Hughes acknowledged a proportion of its beef was imported, but maintained the supermarket had a “buy British first” policy.

Asda often had to address “carcass imbalance” issues where different cuts of meat were needed in varying volumes at different times, he said. In such cases this meant British supplies had to be “topped up” with imported cuts of beef to meet demand.

Sainsbury’s gave a similar response. “Sainsbury’s sources the majority of its fresh beef from the UK. The UK is not self-sufficient in beef and due to the large volumes sold by Sainsbury’s some imports are necessary,” a spokesman said.

Retailer

Aug 2008

Aug 2009

Budgens

100%

100%

Co-op

94%

100%

Lidl

96%

100%

M & S

98%

100%

Morrisons

98%

100%

Waitrose

100%

100%

Tesco

94%

91%

Aldi

63%

89%

Sainsbury

74%

68%

Somerfield

65%

68%

Asda

54%

45%

Netto

0%

6%

Source: AHDB/EBLEX