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UK: NFU chiefs upset by Morrisons move

08:49 28 November 2012

Jimmy Butler with BPEX Red Tractor at Morrisons

Jimmy Butler with BPEX Red Tractor at Morrisons

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A decision by Morrisons to move from stocking 100pc fresh British poultry meat was “extremely disappointing,” said the National Farmers’ Union.

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It comes just days after East Anglian pig farmers praised the retailer for supporting hard-pressed and loss-making producers. A national roadshow, which kicked off at the supermarket’s Riverside store in Norwich before moving to Ipswich Morrisons, saw pig farmers handing out hundreds of free bacon rolls.

Jimmy Butler, who runs 2,000 sows to produce the Blythburgh Free Range Pork, said it was a great opportunity to thank shoppers for staying loyal to Red Tractor pork and bacon. “We wanted to say thanks to our customers for supporting producers of Red Tractor bacon and pork,” he added.

He was joined by volunteers from Ladies in Pigs, including Sophie Hope and Janet Allen, who cooked sausages and bacon to hand out to shoppers.

But the latest move by Morrisons to source cut-price poultry from Europe was described by one leading producer as a “kick in the teeth” for home producers.

“We’ve been encouraged to invest at some extra cost in newer welfare-friendly systems. I’m really surprised because until just a few days ago Morrisons were 100pc supporters of red tractor chicken,” said an East Anglian supplier.

In addition, all producers will be meeting the requirements of the Red Tractor scheme, which will not be required by Morrisons for imported meat, said a NFU spokesman.

Duncan Priestner, who is the NFU’s poultry board chairman, said: “We understand the difficulties retailers are faced with in a competitive market where consumers are demanding a variety of price levels to suit their needs, but unfortunately that comes at the cost of animal welfare standards and British poultry meat.

“British poultry producers have committed and invested in their businesses in order to supply Morrisons so it is extremely disappointing that Morrisons has made this decision.

“It means fresh British chicken will now be displaced by cheaper produce from EU countries that will not have to meet the same welfare standards and it is a blow for the industry.

“Morrisons has always been a keen supporter of British farming and we want this to continue. We hope this is a short-term move that Morrisons will review and reverse at the earliest opportunity,” he added.

Mr Butler thanked Morrisons for supporting the industry by stocking Red Tractor pork and bacon products. While producers have seen feed prices for their pigs soar as a result of droughts around the world, many were losing as much as £12 on every animal,

But an overwhelming majority of consumers have said they would pay a little extra to buy pigs produced in higher-welfare systems. It is the reason that producers have been touring the country to say thanks, said Mr Butler.

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