Stores attacked on meat profits

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MAJOR SUPERMARKETS including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Safeway were yesterday accused of increasing their profit margins at the expense of the meat industry.

The Meat and Livestock Commission said while producers, abbatoirs and processors had all watched profits fall as a result of the BSE crisis, supermarkets had managed to increase their profitability.

MLC Corporate Strategy Director Bob Bansback said instead there had been a significant widening of the gap between the producer and retail price of meat since 1995.

This amounted to an estimated increase in current retail margins of 44% for beef, 61% for lamb and 30% for pork since 1995.

The report has been sent to the Office of Fair Trading which is investigating accusations that the Big Four supermarkets are operating some form of "cartel".

Mr Bansback said the supermarkets would argue cutting their margins would mean less red meat would be sold as customers switched to other products - something the meat industry did not want to see.

A spokesman for Tesco said the chain made very little profit on the sale of red meat. Safeway also denied the claims.