12 June 1998
New Topic — Beef Labelling Scheme, threat or opportunity?

WITH the voluntary aspect of the Beef Labelling Scheme nearly upon us (1 July) we should be asking if it is a threat or oppotunity.

At present, the large multiple retailers will see it as an oppotunity, whereas the high street butcher will be viewing it as a threat.

Many butchers have at this stage looked into the costs involved for the verification procedures needed to substantiate label claims, and would have seen these costs as the threat. The costs range from verifier to verifier with the easiest of labels to audit being “British”. But why should butchers be forced to label their product “British” just to ease the pressure of the labelling scheme?

Butchers should have the option of selling a valued product with the range of labels that go with them and not have to be faced with a large auditing bill.

For the multiple retailer, the verification process is a lot more cost-friendly due to the scale of the business allowing only a percentage of their stores to be audited.

The long-term scenario is clear. The number of high street butchers will eventually decrease due to them not being able to compete with the multiples.

Butchers should now realise the dangers of being independent and should join forces with other butchers in Local Beef Marketing schemes throughout the country. Farmers, butchers, auctions and abattoirs should all join together in their geographical region to market a valued product. Working as one group will allow butchers to be audited along the same lines as the multiples and will dramatically reduce their costs. This will also allow them to carry on selling a valued product such as Peak District Beef & Lamb or Lincolnshire Quality Meat, for example.

The opportunity element is that customers prefer the retail butcher because of the current quality of service and meat assurance. Now they can back up that service with the meat traceability from the Beef Labelling Scheme.

  • DAVID SAUL, 25 Invincible Road, Farnborough, Hants GU14 7QU