THE NATIONAL Beef Association has warned retailers and caterers that they risk losing credibility if they do not support British beef producers.

“Supplies of the consumer‘s number one choice, which is fully traceable, welfare friendly, residue free, socially responsible, home-produced beef will be jeopardised after decoupled support is introduced in January unless there is more support for its production.”

“The arguments in favour of its continued appearance at consumer and supermarket level are so powerful it is difficult to see how retailers and caterers can maintain their credibility with their customers unless they give much more visible backing to high-integrity UK beef at farm level,” said NBA chairman, Robert Robinson.

It will be impossible, Mr Robinson said, to substitute UK produced beef with imported product without provoking a significant drop in quality, delivery and consumer protection standards.

The NBA is worried that important, high volume, beef outlets will be persuaded by the increasing upward pressure on domestic prime cattle prices to overlook strong consumer preferences for home-killed beef and establish alternative sources in South America instead.

The association hopes to persuade companies toying with the idea of using more imported beef that it is in their long-term interests to stick with home produced and commit themselves more convincingly to the UK market.

“Our simple message is that domestic supplies will only be maintained if consumers continue to be able to demonstrate their preference for the product and retailers pass back sufficient money for processors to be able to buy slaughter cattle at a significantly improved price,” said Mr Robertson.