Tom Chanter: Nasty, cheap meat imports could do us a favour

Veganuary has come and gone and we have officially left the EU. The day after our departure from the EU the stock market didn’t crash, flights were not cancelled and, annoyingly, a bolt of lightning did not shoot out of Jeremy Corbyn‘s backside. Oh well, there is hope yet.

In fact life has just carried on, which makes you wonder what the last three years of worry, arguing and concern were all about. I know, I can hear you all say it: “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Life also goes on at the farm too. It’s still wet (surprise, surprise) but the recent cold weather has done us a bit of good and the cattle just do better in the cold rather than the never-ending warm and wet.

See also: 3 ways one beef farmer is adapting to improve profits

In the farming press we are increasingly seeing concerns raised over the threat of cheap meat imports being used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations.

It is a far-from-ideal situation. Once again farming and food production are being used as leverage to access other trade, but this could actually be turned into an opportunity for UK farmers, if it is marketed correctly.

Thanks to our vegan friends, the spotlight is very much focused on eco-friendly meat production and low food miles at the moment.

Consumers are being strongly encouraged to assess their diets in order to lessen the impact on the planet and, most crucially for farmers, to consider where their meat comes from.

Choice matters

Now, just say that Boris Johnson, in his infinite wisdom, allows meat to be imported from countries which do not adhere to our fantastic welfare or quality assurance standards.

Suppose we end up with a load of South American steak, stuffed full of GM crops, reared in a system where welfare is not prioritised, and massively polluting in its production.

Imagine that on a supermarket shelf next to a fully traceable, Red Tractor assured cut of meat, reared on sustainable feed. It’s a prime steak from a native breed with a picture of the proud farmer who produced it on the family farm, all wrapped up in (recyclable) packaging.

What have you done? You have given the consumer a choice. That consumer now needs to make a conscientious decision. Buy bad or buy local.

And thanks to our vegan friends, more and more people are going to choose the latter. It’s not about guilt tripping the consumer – as so many pressure groups are trying to do – it’s about helping the consumer to make an informed decision.

So I say, fear not about cheap meat imports and let the mainstream media carry on telling us how we should change our diets. With the right message at the right time, it could just work in our favour.