14 April 2000
Stores’ fury at meat supplier
By Johann Tasker
ASDA bosses have demanded urgent talks with one of Britains biggest meat processors which said it didnt give a damn where it bought its beef.
The remark was made by Shawn Baker of Midland Meat Packers, who supplies Asda stores with what he insists is British beef from British farmers.
Mr Baker, head of production at MMP, made the comments during a speech to farmers at a recent meeting with producers at Daventry, Northampton.
He said: “The pace of change in the beef industry is so huge and we are supplying retailers with low cost as the main issue, so to be honest we do not give a damn where the product comes from.”
Mr Baker suggested that it was unclear how supermarkets such as Sainsburys and Tesco would react to the merger of Asda with Wal-Mart.
US-based retail giant Wal-Mart is renown for winning market share by selling cut-price food to shoppers after buying supplies in large quantities.
The comments infuriated all the supermarkets involved. A spokeswoman for Asda, which buys much of its beef from MMP, voiced her concern.
“Midland are quoted as saying they dont give a damn where their meat comes from, but we absolutely do care at Asda,” she said.
“We see it very much as investing in a farming industry that we are reliant on. Our beef is 100% British and its in our interest to have a healthy beef industry.”
She added: “We care passionately where our beef comes from and we stipulate to our buyers that it must be 100% British.
“We will be getting in touch with Midland to discuss the situation. Clearly, its not the case that we dont care where our beef comes from.”
David Sawday, director of corporate affairs at Tesco, said: “Clearly Walmart will be less pro-British than any existing players have been.
“They are an international company with less of a track record here than we have. That may or may not mean well respond but nothing has happened yet.
“Weve worked hard to develop our supply based and we dont see any prospect of seeing that change any time in the near future.”
A statement from Sainsburys said the supermarket was concerned to read the comments made by Mr Baker because the chain supports British agriculture.
“The company has a buy British policy and we source from the UK wherever possible. Currently 95% of beef is British and 5% comes from Southern Ireland.”
MMP refused to comment. But Mr Bakers comments are embarrassing because his father, John Baker, a Meat and Livestock Commission commissioner.
The organisation promotes British beef. But an MLC spokesman said Mr Bakers remarks were a matter for the MMP, not the commission.