TEsco has been accused of misleading consumers over the seasonality of British lamb in its comments defending its promotion of imported lamb at the height of the homegrown season.
Photographs of New Zealand lamb on special offer at Tesco stores were circulated on Twitter, much to the disappointment of the National Farmers’ Union. Its officials wrote to all the major supermarket chains on behalf of England and Wales’ 47,000 sheep farmers last week, to remind them that grass-fed British spring lamb is now in peak season and is available in abundance.
With Defra figures for last year showing that Britain was 100 percent self-sufficient in lamb and mutton, the union does not understand why retailers would source the meat from anywhere else.
Charles Sercombe, the union’s livestock board chairman, said: “There is no excuse for retailers to be promoting lamb from across the globe when there is a good, affordable and fresh supply in England and Wales.
“British lamb is in peak season right now and should take pride of place in stores and supermarkets across Britain.
“It is disappointing to see that British lamb is not being stocked front and centre while end of season New Zealand lamb is being heavily marketed and put on special offer.”
Eblex figures from the beginning of June show that more lamb is being produced this year than in 2013.
After the New Zealand lamb photos taken in Tesco were circulated online, the NFU and consumer Adrian Wedgewood tweeted the supermarket.
Mr Wedgewood asked: “@Tesco in plain English are you saying that Tesco can’t buy enough UK Lamb to satisfy demand?”
Tesco replied, saying: “With the large demand for lamb we cannot always guarantee consistent UK stock.”
But Meurig Raymond, the NFU’s president, ridiculed the chain’s response.
“I find this comment almost as ridiculous as last September’s statement from Tesco that British lamb was ‘not in season at the moment in the UK’. “I am angry and disappointed that this comes only 18 months after giving such positive undertakings on its sourcing and supply chains for red meat.
“The figures speak for themselves. The UK was self-sufficient in lamb last year and lamb numbers are even higher this year. We have more than enough lamb available.
“I believe that promoting New Zealand lamb over British, and Tesco’s attempts to justify this, misleads consumers about the seasonality of lamb and sends a signal to farmers that Tesco are not prepared to promote the benefits of food produced in the UK.
“By these actions Tesco is failing to live up to the commitments made by Philip Clarke at the NFU Conference last year that Tesco should be the best supporter of British farmers and that it wished to shorten the supply chain.”
Tesco was unable to respond in time when asked by The Yorkshire Post to comment yesterday.
Asda is also running promotions and discounts for end of season New Zealand lamb, the NFU said. A spokesman for the retailer said: “Buying British is important to us - which is why we support Red Tractor, which is the UK assurance standard that shows meat is British and fully traceable back to Red Tractor-assured farms.”