NFU president Peter Kendall has said marketing campaigns which dress up imported meat as British was a practice that had to stop, citing Morrisons’ Hemsley-branded chicken as an example.

Speaking at the NFU conference, he said that the branding was “no way to treat British farmers” Although consumers wanted value brand lines, marketing imported meat as British was “unacceptable”.

“We need to see an end to that. It’s a disservice to the consumer and to be honest, it’s no way to treat the British farmers who’ve invested heavily to meet Morrisons’ high standards.”

The Hemsley range of chicken was introduced in November last year and marked a move by the supermarket away from its commitment to sourcing 100% British poultrymeat.

It is understood that chicken for the tertiary brand is sourced from both the UK and Europe. It has been slammed by the NFU for its British-style branding – both the name and its logo, a rose motif with a farmgate-shaped H in the centre.

Mr Kendall said that, although Morrisons “on the whole” did a great job when buying British, Hemsleys “sounds the completely wrong note”.

“British poultry producers supplying Morrisons have to meet stringent welfare standards, higher than their EU counterparts and at extra cost. So what happens? [Morrisons] relax their 100% British commitment and introduce the Hemsley range.”

He said the name was “familiar”, sounding like a traditional market town in Yorkshire and “conjures up all the positives that that go with that”.

“The reality is that the poultry is sourced outside the UK, and to less exacting welfare standards,” he said.

But the claims have been disputed by Morrisons. Speaking to Poultry World after Mr Kendall’s spech, a spokesperson said: “Since we introduced the Hemsleys brand in November of last year, the vast majority of the meat in this range has been British.

“In fact, less than 1% of our total fresh meat sales has come from Hemsley products sourced from outside the UK, meaning 99 % of all the fresh meat sold at Morrisons has been British. This is a commitment to British farming that no other major supermarket in the UK can currently match.”

For more on this topic

News from the NFU conference 2013