UK AND IRISH beef producers took to the streets this week to urge consumers to shun Brazilian beef.
NFU Scotland held four protests on Tuesday (Aug 16) outside stores in Edinburgh, Govan, Aboyne and Dumfries, at which farmers handed out leaflets explaining why consumers should seek out Scottish.
A letter was also handed to store managers questioning Brazil’s beef production standards.
The demonstrations followed a six-week period during which deadweight steer prices have fallen from 196p/kg to 183p/kg – well below the 200p/kg-plus estimated cost of production.
The finger is pointed at cheap Brazilian imports, which climbed 70% to 34,000t in the first half of the year.
NFU Scotland president John Kinnaird said that Brazilian product carrying a “Better Value” label was placed alongside Scotch beef in the Tesco store where he protested in Edinburgh.
A pack of beefburgers was labelled as “Aberdeen Angus”, suggesting they were Scottish. Only in the small print on the back of the pack was it explained that they were made of British, Irish or South American beef.
“Consumers look at this and take it as given that the meats are of the same quality,” Mr Kinnaird told FW.
“But we have to comply with quality assurance standards that the Brazilians do not. “This smacks of double standards.”
The Scottish protests followed another major demonstration in Northern Ireland at which six farmer organisations from both sides of the border gathered at the Tesco
Lisnagelvin store in Londonderry.
In a protest organised by Farmers For Action and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association, over 1000 leaflets were handed out urging consumers to buy only British or Irish beef.
Farmers also distributed copies of a New York Times article describing instances of slavery in Brazilian beef ranching.
But Brazilian agriculture officials said the protests were a result of scaremongering.
Allegations of rainforest clearance, poor traceability, slave labour and rampant disease are little more than scaremongering, according to Otavio Cançado, senior advisor at the Brazilian Association of Meat Exporters’ Industry in Sao Paulo.
Beef production was focused in the central west and south of Brazil, he told FW.
Clearing rainforest in the north to make way for feedlots was economic nonsense and would not have the support of the Brazilian population or government.
Cattle ranching was a highly structured activity, he added, and the industry supported social and educational projects.