7 July 1995

Public concern for livestocks welfare cannot be ignored

LIVESTOCK farmers cannot dismiss consumer concerns over animal welfare, says Marks and Spencer technical manager Chris Gilbert-Wood.

He said the retail giant received 40-50 letters a week from customers on welfare and related issues, including the use of veterinary drugs. Most wanted to know how M&S buyers could ensure product quality, he added.

"It is important for the industry to keep customers confidence and the way to have that is through traceability," he said.

That meant buyers had to be able to trace meat and other foods back to the farm of origin. A similar process also applied to ongoing meat-eating quality trials which tested cuts from known breeds and management regimes and allowed products to be constantly refined.

Meat consumers were looking for value for money, tenderness and assurance over welfare and other related issues, said Mr Gilbert-Wood. M&S was looking to build long-term relationships with farm suppliers.

Complaints over the heavy-handed approach of the multiples were made by people who did not work with M&S, he claimed.

"There are fortunately enough farmers who want to work in this business," he added. "It is not in our interests to dictate to producers. We want to produce the right quality food in long-standing relationships."