National Beef Association
For everyone with an interest in the British beef industry

Press Release - Retailers can reduce widespread temptation to substitute beef with horsemeat........

18th April 2013

Region: National

Retailers can reduce widespread temptation to substitute beef with horsemeat if they pay their supplier the proper price for high provenance, UK-only, beef product.

The most recent results of horsemeat substitution tests in beef products confirm that inattentive retailers have allowed both consumers and beef farmers to be the victims of a giant, cross-EU, food fraud that has dented the confidence of the former – and forfeit the latter untold millions of pounds in lost income.

And the National Beef Association, which finds itself unable to be surprised by the findings of the European Commission’s latest horsemeat contamination survey, is furious that consumers and farmers have been so badly let down by supermarkets and food policing agencies operating at both EU and national level.

“We already knew that a massive criminal deception has been inflicted on consumers and farmers by cheats in the red meat trade and that the retailers who purchased so many, suspiciously cheap, contaminated beef products without initiating checks have played their part in a Europe-wide scandal of quite staggering proportions too,” explained the NBA’s national director, Chris Mallon.

“The naivety surrounding the trading of horsemeat was appalling. We know now that around 350,000 tonnes of the product, which is five times cheaper than fresh beef, circulated within the EU each year - and that this has offered an irresistible, on-going, opportunity for swindlers and frauds to substitute it for beef and cream off illicit profits that could easily total a billion pounds.”
“Who knows exactly how much horsemeat has been eaten instead of beef? Who knows how many consumers have purchased beef products in good faith only to find, much later, they have been the innocent victims of a cynical, red meat industry, fraud?”

“The good news, and it is very good news, is that consumers recognised immediately that horsemeat substitution was confined to packaged, processed, products and since the scandal broke on January 16th have concentrated their purchases not just on fresh beef – but on fresh beef of specific UK-origin too.”

“As a result the value of UK cattle is rising to the level it would have been if so much super-cheap horsemeat had not infiltrated the EU market over recent years and so UK beef farmers are in a better position than they have ever been to continue to deliver the high provenance, high integrity, beef that is demanded by UK consumers.”

However, says the NBA, retailers too must play their part. Evidence already assembled points to many offending meat companies being unable to resist the lure of super-cheap horsemeat because supermarkets, and other retail chains, discounted some beef products to levels that made it impossible for suppliers to earn a profit.

“Back in January we heard retailers, all of them household names, promise to eradicate the threat of horsemeat substitution by raising their scrutiny levels, shortening their supply chains, and making sure their suppliers received proper payment for orders delivered,” said Mr Mallon.

“However some of this appears to have been soft talk and hot air because a retail survey published just last week shows that since January 16th the UK’s four biggest retailers have failed to lift the price of 81 per cent of their beef products and another four per cent are actually cheaper.”

“Our very clear view is that unless Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morissons raise all their retail beef prices in line with the improving value of UK cattle it is inevitable that suppliers will make losses on their orders.”

“This is an unsustainable situation which, as we now know, could lead to supply integrity problems in the future. It is important to consumers that everyone involved in the supply of their UK beef is able to maintain their business without cutting unnecessary costs and are therefore able to continue to deliver the consumer’s first choice product in future.”

For more information contact:
Chris Mallon, NBA national director. Tel. 07796 543647,

Editors Notes.
#  The EU produces only around 55,000 tonnes of horsemeat of its own - the result of the slaughter of around 200,000 head annually. However imports accounted for at least 300,000 tonnes in 2011 (the most recent figures available) which compares with total EU beef production of around eight million tonnes.
The biggest horsemeat importers are Belgium, France, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. The biggest suppliers are Canada (88,000 tonnes in 2011), Argentina (73,000 tonnes), Mexico 54,000 tonnes, Uruguay (28,000 tonnes), the United States (20,000 tonnes) and Brazil (16,000 tonnes). Most horsemeat is eaten in Belgium, France and The Netherlands.
# The root of the horsemeat scandal is thought to be that processors, whose margins were squeezed by supermarkets who did not pay enough to cover their beef supplier’s costs, turned to an alternative which was five times cheaper.
However it has emerged that since large scale horsemeat substitution became public on January 16th that the UK’s big four retailers have failed to lift their prices – and so the price squeeze on processors that encouraged the original fraud is even more fierce because the value of prime cattle has surged in the meantime.
A report in The Grocer (April 13th) cites a analysis of 320 fresh beef lines presented by Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons that were stocked on January 16th, and are still on-shelf, which shows that 258 (81 per cent) are still selling at the same price.
Also four per cent are cheaper than they were in mid-January and just 15 per cent have become more expensive.
In contrast shows that 68 per cent of the 82 fresh beef lines stocked by Waitrose on January 16th have become more expensive with 23 holding the same price and just three becoming cheaper.
This suggests that apart from Waitrose the UK’s major retailers have spurned the need to safeguard supply chain integrity by raising retail beef prices.
#  The most recent horsemeat testing results published by the European Commission include confirmation that over 12 per cent of the 353 tests conducted in France were positive.  Also that 12.5 per cent of the 288 tests conducted in Greece were positive too.
# Iceland has been obliged to officially withdraw frozen, diced beef steak, packs on offer in the Republic of Ireland after they were found to contain horsemeat.