Find the positive in horsemeat scandal, says Minette Batters

Last week we had our farm assurance inspection. Most of the farm assurance requirements are what we would do on farm anyway, but this time my medicine book did not have enough detail on ailments being treated.

To my mind our medicine book is a very comprehensive documentation of drugs administered, but I’m now wondering when the colour of each animal will become a prerequisite for assurance. Along with the manure plan, it’s been updated and emailed for further scrutiny.

With farm assurance compliance fresh in my mind, I have listened to the Tesco horsemeat scandal with growing frustration. I know I’m not alone in thinking that as beef farmers we were badly let down by the delayed and weak response from industry.

The horsemeat burger saga clearly had a fault in that particular non-assured supply chain, but there should have been a quick, clear and robust response, praising the standards that British farmers adhere to. The standards that make British beef world-renowned. We must stop judging farmers by the lowest common denominator – many livestock farmers are doing a fantastic job and it’s about time they reaped some of the benefits of earned recognition.

It is perfectly possible to turn this whole episode into a positive one, whether the Red Tractor Logo is seen as a brand or a Kite mark is immaterial – it’s a set of standards, of due care. There has never been a better chance to have farmers, processors and retailers promoting the British message and adhering to one set of standards.

Minette Batters farms 120ha on a tenant farm on the Longford Estate in south Wiltshire. The farm carries 100 continental-bred suckler cows, with males finished as bull beef, some sold as stores and the others finished and sold to local butchers. The enterprise also includes a catering business and horse livery. She is NFU county chairwoman for Wiltshire and founder of Ladies in Beef.

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