With less than a year to go until the official withdrawal of the UK from the EU there is still uncertainty around the exports of British meat to the EU, with word from the International Meat Trade Association predicting a tariff of 50-60% on beef and lamb exports. Any meat exported to the EU would have to be checked at a Border Inspection Post, and there is no such facility at Calais, the most direct route for meats from the south of the country. Rotterdam has the facilities and is hiring extra staff, but this diversion could mean more costs for the farmer and processors and an ensuing drop in volume of exports.
Research carried out by NFU Mutual revealed that only 10% of the industry has confidence in a global supply chain, which is not reassuring for meat eaters, butchers and farmers alike. However, 99% of consumers surveyed by NFU Mutual said they would buy more British produce if it was available to them, with just under half saying they would consider a ready made product to be British if most of the ingredients were grown in the UK.
This news is encouraging for the industry in the UK, as we can offer consumers the reassurance of a shorter, much more traceable supply chain that is less susceptible to fraud and adulteration. Consumer outcry over the potential for chlorinated chicken to be imported from the US demonstrates how passionate we are for properly produced, higher welfare food and although many people shop with their budget in mind and not the provenance, but there is a definite appetite for local food and better quality.
A recent report by the US Trade Representative suggested that the EU should lower its welfare standards in order to facilitate trade between the nations, but the uproar over chlorine washed chicken should have been enough to show the US that we won’t back down on standards, nor will consumers buy anything they are not confident in. British consumers are very lucky to have been sheltered from the issues of low welfare and low quality meat for many years now, and the thought that we should lower our standards to help the US has been described as “insulting” by the British Poultry Council.
A consumer poll by the Institute of Public Policy Research showed that UK consumers would be willing to axe a post-Brexit deal with the US in order to protect our welfare standards and ensure that UK consumers are not going to have to accept meat that has been produced to a much lower standard than we are used to.