The Head of the National Farmers Union has told supermarkets to buy British, and stop scouring the world for the cheapest products, in the wake of the “real shock” engendered by the discovery of horse meat in dozens of supermarket products.
Speaking at the National Farmers Union Conference , Mr Kendall said that pressure placed on processors by the supermarkets to force down prices was damaging, but also insisted that, ultimately, a fraud had been committed, and that the processors “should have told the retailers to get stuffed, that you can’t do eight burgers for a pound.”
Retailers should be sourcing high quality, traceable products from UK farmers, he claimed, and there should be an end to misleading advertising that presented food products with “homely British sounding names” but which were in fact foreign imports.
Mr Kendall criticised Morrisons for their “Hemsley” range, which he said sounded like a traditional market town in Yorkshire but used poultry imported from abroad and produced to less exacting welfare standards than the supermarket demands of British suppliers.
“If there's one single message that's come from the horse meat scandal, it's that our consumers want to know their food is coming from as close as home as possible,” he said.
Speaking at the conference in Birmingham, he said that within eight years, there would be another four and a half million people in the UK, ”more than four Birmingham's worth of extra mouths to feed“, and if everyone were to have the opportunity to buy British, the supply chain had to start
The financial pressures facing the general public are obvious, so price is important, but the journey made by food around that was highlighted by investigation in where horse meat had come from, had shocked people.
”It's not as if it's nuts and bolts, pots and pans or mobile phones - this is our food,“ he said.
A survey by the National Farmers’ Union showed that 78 per cent of people think that supermarkets should sell more food from British farms and 43% said they were more likely to buy traceable food from farms in Britain following the revelations over horse meat in processed foods.
He added: ”I'm convinced that putting price pressure on processors is damaging, but that's no excuse for fraud.
His comments came as Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke vowed to bring meat production “closer to home” and work more closely with British farmers in response to the scandal.
The company has introduced a new testing process so customers can be sure that what is on the label is in the product, he said, and from July all chicken meats sold at Tesco's UK stores will come from British farms.
“The testing regime is intended to ensure that if it is not on the label it is not in the packet, if it is beef, it is beef, and nothing else,” he said.
”The second thing is we're going to bring meat production a bit closer to home. We do buy some, particularly for our frozen products, out of Europe, and as we can we'll bring it closer to home.”
But he would not promise that the changes would not cost customers more.
“I hope that it doesn't mean price increases, but I can't stand here today and tell you that it won't.
”I hope it doesn't, I'll work to make sure it doesn't.“