NFU urges retailers to set out clear commitments to sourcing British lamb

The NFU has urged all major retailers to strengthen their commitments to sourcing peak season British lamb.

The NFU sent letters to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, The Co-operative, Aldi, Brakes, Sodexo, Whitbread, Lidl and Compass earlier this month.

And the Co-operative and multi-million pound foodservice supplier, Brakes, have already acted, setting out their commitments to sourcing British lamb after questions raised by the NFU.

Brakes confirmed to the NFU that all of its fresh and frozen lamb will be British Red Tractor assured by the end of July while the Co-operative is bringing forward the season for its ‘truly irresistible’ British lamb supply.

The NFU’s four key asks from all retailers are:
> Transparency and a commitment to deliver on British lamb sourcing, specifically clarity on when retailers season starts and finishes.

> Getting closer to producers – direct contracts and improved communication which offer stability and confidence to producers and will give the potential to work towards buying British all year round.

> Product development – outline plans with how you plan to develop new products to entice consumers to buy British lamb and enable lamb carcasses to be balanced more easily.

> Ensure that labelling is clear on British lamb and that the Red Tractor logo is used prominently

After updating NFU Council yesterday (June 23) NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “The real win is in the foodservice industry, with leaders at Brakes, who should be praised for their efforts in being clear about their sourcing commitments. It means their customers such as schools, pubs, restaurants, hotels and care homes, who serve up millions of meals every year, will be using tender, delicious, quality British lamb throughout the year.

“I’m also delighted that the Co-operative has listened to our concerns about this year’s early production and brought forward the season for its ‘truly irresistible’ British lamb supply by two weeks.

“Waitrose has told us that it’s working very closely with its farmer suppliers to develop a product that customers want. This can be seen to be successful by the fact they sell more lamb than their market share should dictate. It’s also extremely positive that Sainsbury’s are now working with a larger lamb supply group. This presents an opportunity for producers to supply more quality lamb, which hits the specification requirements and gives producers the potential for better returns. We are pleased to see Sainsbury’s supporting producers to drive forward productivity and help ensure the longer term sustainability of the sheep enterprise.

“However, other retailers and foodservice companies really need to up their game. The NFU would like to see the supply chain working with producers to be clear about their season where possible as well as developing longer term relationships with suppliers that support our farmer members. It is also crucial that retailers and food service companies are clear about when they wish to source British and to what specification – producers need clear market signals in advance to make the right business decisions. We will of course continue to work with retailers and other parts of the supply chain to develop lamb sourcing policies which will ensure greater collaboration through the supply chain.

“A transparent supply chain is also crucial. It is important that data is clearly provided back to farmers so they can produce what the customer demands. Industry needs to improve transparency; in particular the outdated practice of rounding down sheep carcases to the nearest ½ kilo needs to go. We also need to see clear and transparent carcase classification and dressing specifications, leading to greater deadweight price reporting.

“Grass-fed British lamb is now at its best and in plentiful supply and we urge all retailers and food service companies to give great British lamb pride of place on British shelves.”

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