Cattle producers have pinned the blame for the horse meat crisis on supermarkets and accused them of “short-sighted, price-led, purchasing tactics”.
Traces of horse meat have been found in Tesco (Other OTC: TSCDY - news) , Asda, and Aldi products that were labelled as beef, prompting customers to question whether they can trust the quality of own-label supermarket foods.
The National Beef Association has warned that customers must be prepared for increases in food prices unless they are ready to compromise the quality of their food.
Chris Mallon, national director of the NBA, said the horse meat crisis has its roots in the “bullying culture” adopted by retail buyers as they tried to cut the cost of deals with suppliers.
He said: “They adopted a bullying culture aimed exclusively at securing as much farm food as possible for as little cost as possible, and the result is tortured supply chains that add so much unnecessary cost that short cuts on quality and traceability, and even cheating by some suppliers, was inevitable.”
Mr Mallon, whose trade body represents the beef supply chain including farmers, said the horse meat crisis “has demonstrated conclusively that consumers only get what they pay for”. He added: “Concentrating on cheapness is myopic. In real terms British consumers are currently paying 20pc less for food than they did a decade ago. This trend cannot possibly continue because the world population is exploding and it is already clear world food production cannot keep up with it.
“The global food market is changing fast and supermarkets now need, for their own long term survival as well as the long term well-being of their customers, to persuade consumers they can no longer spend just 10pc of their disposable income on food and be prepared, before long, to spend 15pc instead.”
However, Andrew Opie, food director for the British Retail Consortium, said: “It’s silly to suggest we go out of our way to over-complicate the supply chain.
“In fact, the majority of our beef comes from UK producers. But it is the case that we use the European food market to source some products in just the same way that our UK beef farmers export into that market.”