Leading supermarket Tesco has committed to source all its fresh chicken from British producers as part of a raft of “radical” changes following the horsemeat scandal.
Addressing the NFU Conference in Birmingham, Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke said the supermarket was implementing a “root and branch review” of its supply chains. This would involve introducing longer contracts, more transparency and the appointment of an agriculture director.
“As a first step, I am announcing that, from July, all of our fresh chicken must come from UK farms. No exceptions,” he said. “We will also move over time to ensure that all the chicken in all of our products – fresh or frozen – is from the British Isles.
“These commitments represent a genuine shift in how Tesco sources the products we sell.”
Mr Clarke also promised dairy-style Sustainable Farming Groups for all protein sectors, including poultry, which could signal a closer link between producer prices and cost of production.
And he called for processors to work together in tripartite partnerships with retailers and farmers. “They shouldn’t be a barrier to Tesco and farmers talking and working directly together,” he said.
Tesco would be extending contracts to a minimum of two years, giving producers more certainty. and would be appointing an agriculture director, who would be the single point of contact for farmers.
The announcements were welcomed by NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller. Speaking from the Birmingham conference he said: “Mr Clarke’s commitment to 100% British chicken will be a boost to poultry farmers the length and breadth of the country.
“Imported chicken does not always meet UK producers’ high animal welfare and environmental standards, but customers can now be confident when they choose Tesco chicken that they are supporting local farmers and their high quality production methods.”
Meanwhile, NFU poultry board chairman Duncan Priestner asked Mr Clarke for a commitment to pay producers a fair price, especially since the price to consumers wouldn’t go up.
The Tesco boss said that heavy discounting at the consumer end was necessary when household incomes were squeezed. But he recognised that it was not sustainable in the long run, adding that retailing was not just about price.
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