A number of supermarkets have come under fresh fire this week for not clearly denoting some lamb products as imported.
A spot check by Farmers Weekly found Aldi selling a number of lamb ready meals called “British Classic”, when the small print on the back said they contained New Zealand lamb.
Another Aldi ready meal had a British flag on the front with the words “Produced in Britain”, but again the fine print said the lamb was imported.
Ruth Mason, chief food chain advisor at the NFU, said the branding was “misleading” and the NFU was concerned it would “confuse” customers. She said the NFU would be contacting the retailer.
And National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker described the branding as “shocking”. “It’s being done on purpose and is playing on the high quality and provenance that British [farming] has got,” he told Farmers Weekly.
An Aldi spokesperson said the “British Classic” brand was used to indicate the origin of the recipe, but “not necessarily the provenance of the ingredients”.
“The ingredients are clearly labelled,” he said. “However, in line with other major supermarkets, we are relaunching the range to make the distinction even clearer.”
Premium retailer, Waitrose, also faced widespread criticism earlier in the week for a ready meals line called “Waitrose British”, which uses New Zealand lamb.
A Twitter poll started by Lake District shepherd James Rebanks attracted more than 4,300 votes in 12 hours, with 98% of respondents saying the label was “unacceptable”.
Waitrose said the label was only ever supposed to refer to the origin of the recipe and it was in the process of reprinting the packaging. The range would be called “Waitrose Classic” from next month.
“We use New Zealand in our ready meals because of a lack of availability of suitable UK trim from our supply chain,” said a Waitrose spokesperson.
“We take the whole carcass from our farmers, with all of the trim generated from those lambs going into our popular burgers, meatballs and mince.”
Morrisons also came in for flak for promoting imported lamb legs when British lambs are plentiful.
NFU Cymru said its members had raised concerns about “consumer confusion” over the product’s country of origin.
“We have concerns that these imported products are being placed near Welsh and British messaging at the point of sale, potentially leaving shoppers confused about the origin of the product they are purchasing,” said livestock board chairman, Wyn Evans. “We want shoppers to be able to buy British food confidently.”
A spokesman from the retailer said the country of origin was “very clearly labelled” and the product was “sold away from the counter”.
NFU chief livestock advisor John Royle, said Morrisons had traditionally been a strong backer of British.
But he added: “We’re aware that an estimated 120,000 fewer (British) lambs have been slaughtered in 2016, which means there is the potential for more lambs to come through in early 2017.