Twitter storm erupts over Waitrose ‘British’ lamb label

More than 4,200 people have labelled “Waitrose British” lamb ready meals, which are made with New Zealand meat, as “unacceptable” and a “lie” in a Twitter poll.

The UK’s seventh largest supermarket faced a barrage of criticism over three lamb ready meals, which are called “Waitrose British lamb with mint and redcurrant”, “Waitrose British lamb hotpot” and “Waitrose British shepherd’s pie” – all of which are made with New Zealand lamb.

A twitter poll started by Lake District shepherd and author James Rebanks asking what people thought about the labelling attracted nearly 4,300 votes in 12 hours with 98% of people responding that they thought calling a product “British” when it was made with imported meat was unacceptable. 

A second Twitter poll, also by Mr Rebanks (@herdyshepherd1), received more than 2,200 votes by Monday (13 February) morning, with 92% of respondents stating the products should be remade using British lamb as opposed to simply rebranding.

The products are still on sale after Waitrose said the line would be rebranded to “Waitrose Classic” a fortnight ago.

However, new packaging for the line was being printed as we speak, said a spokesman for Waitrose and the newly packaged products would be on shelves next month. 

“We are about to relaunch the range with the branding ‘Classic’, removing the large ‘British’ reference from the front of pack.

“This was only ever supposed to denote the origin of the recipe but we understand why confusion has arisen.”

See also: NFU challenges supermarkets’ use of ‘fake farm’ brands

However, the widespread anger on Twitter was exacerbated yesterday by the responses from Waitrose’ official Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Posting on Facebook the firm said: “Our policy is to sell the best available lamb in season, and we choose New Zealand lamb purely because of its quality.

“This means in the winter months, outside of the UK lamb season, we source from selected farmers in New Zealand.

“These farmers meet the same exacting standards as our dedicated group of British farmers.”

The accounts claimed British was the “name of the range of meals denoting the origin of the recipe.”

But farmers and consumers alike reacted incredulously, pointing out a recipe can neither be British, nor can the word lamb be recognised as a recipe.                               

Waitrose response

After being contacted by Farmers Weekly, a Waitrose spokesman said: “We have challenged our supplier to explore the practicalities of using more British lamb in our ready meals.

“At the moment, because of our policy of only buying from our dedicated supply chain and using the whole carcass, we do not have sufficient raw material available to make this change but, nevertheless, we are exploring this option.”

See more