Asda’s beef backtrack: could it be the thin edge of the supermarket sourcing wedge?

 

By Carina Perkins, The Grocer (UK)

10 January 2022

 

Asda has angered farmers after dropping its commitment to sourcing 100% British beef.

 

The retailer claims it was forced to change its policy following a sharp rise in British beef prices, with the GB all prime cattle price up by over 10% year on year in the week ending 1 January 2021, according to AHDB data.

 

“We know that it is important to our customers that the beef on our shelves has been produced to high welfare standards and is affordable,” said an Asda spokesman. “Unfortunately, the price of British beef has risen and whilst we continue to work hard to keep prices as low as possible for our customers, these increases are significant.”

 

However, National Beef Association CEO Neil Shand told the BBC he was “deeply disappointed” by the move. Farmers were being squeezed by a “never seen before” rise in input costs, he said, and needed the support of the major retailers more than ever.

 

It’s easy to see why British farmers are upset. Asda has traditionally lagged behind its main rivals when it came to British beef sourcing. Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons, M&S, Co-op and Waitrose have long sourced 100% British beef, while Tesco and Sainsbury’s have consistently had a higher percentage of British beef on their shelves than Asda in recent years, according to AHDB’s red meat country of origin audit.

 

So Asda’s pledge to source 100% British fresh beef last year, following its acquisition by the Issa brothers and TDR Capital, was considered a hard-earned victory for the British beef sector.

 

Now, just months after hitting that target last October, the retailer has already reneged on its promise.

 

But amid calls for a boycott of Asda on Twitter, it’s also important to put the move into context.

 

As a starting point, it’s worth noting that Asda isn’t suddenly going to start sourcing fresh beef from Australia, or even Poland...

 

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