Campaign aims to counter horsemeat headlines

The NFU has launched a major “buy British” campaign amid a wider farm industry drive to counter bad publicity whipped up by the horsemeat scandal.

The NFU campaign – Great British Farmers, Great British Food – will begin by targeting the public through advertisements in the national newspapers and the London Evening Standard.

A set of advertisements will appear in newspapers from tomorrow (Saturday 16 February) and will be backed by a social media drive using the Twitter hashtag #BuyBritish to encourage farmers to share posters and connect with consumers. It will also play on the Red Tractor logo, reaffirming that the mark means the food has been reared, packed and processed in the UK.

The drive will be further bolstered by an information campaign from EBLEX focusing on traceability and quality of British produce.

NFU president Peter Kendall said UK farmers felt “let down” and were “rightly furious” about the scandal. Launching the campaign, he said: “Our meat industry is one of the most highly regulated in the country and it is imperative that we remind consumers that British farmers work to some of the most stringent standards.”

The NFU campaign was announced as farmers and politicians across Britain attempted to seize the initiative from the horsemeat headlines.

Cumbria farmer John Geldard called for an alliance of farm industry organisations to promote British food interests to the government and consumers.

Mr Geldard, who holds posts with both the national sheep and beef associations, said the horsemeat scandal should be the “catalyst to create an alliance to support the government in meeting future food challenges”.

The first step was to call a summit of industry bodies, which will take place in London next Friday (22 February).

“It is clear the farmer’s voice is not being heard well enough by the government and farming ministers,” said Mr Geldard. “An alliance would make sure the government listens to the views of core food producers.”

His comments came after DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson urged shoppers to “buy British”.

Meanwhile NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller has launched a call for retailers and food manufacturers to use more locally produced food.

Speaking at the union’s AGM in St Andrews, Mr Miller said: “The horsemeat scandal has exposed the lengthy supply chains now involved in producing manufactured meat products. The longer the chain, the more difficult the challenge in auditing that process. More checks and balances must be rapidly introduced if we are to avoid having our industry undermined again in the future.

“For retailers and manufacturers, there is a clear opportunity to shorten those chains and give Scottish producers the chance to meet all their requirements.”

In Wales, Welsh red meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru has told shoppers to “look for the logos” when they go shopping to ensure they get what it says on the packet.

Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef both have Protected Geographical Indication, which guarantees that only lamb and beef from livestock born, reared, slaughtered and processed at an approved abattoir or processor can be called Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef.

* The UK Food Standards Agency is expected to release its first test results of beef products from UK producers and retailers today (Friday).

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