Grocery giant Tesco is to source more of its meat from the UK and will improve its DNA testing following the horse meat scandal.
Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke will tell farmers at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference today that the grocer will make a commitment to buy British wherever it is reasonable to do so.
By July, all of Tesco’s fresh chicken will come from British farms, which will then be followed by all of frozen and all of ready meals.
Clarke will admit that the supply chain has become too complex so will work to simplify it. It will offer suppliers two-year contracts to help companies plan their business for the longer term.
Clarke told Sky News this morning: “We feel the need to bring the food closer to home.
“We think it’s right to bring more of it back to the UK, so long as we can get the demand from the UK.”
Tesco already sources all its beef products from the UK and Ireland but last month a few of its products were found to have horse meat in them.
Clarke will say today: “Where we recently found horse meat in three products, it was because we were let down and our instruction to use only British and Irish beef wasn’t followed.
“We are already the biggest customer of UK agriculture, with all our beef — fresh, frozen and in ready meals — coming from UK and Ireland farms. But we can do much more.”
He added that Tesco will be putting in place a “world-leading” DNA testing programme to screen processed meat before it goes into its products. It will also build an interactive website so shoppers can see where the food they’re eating has come from.
Tesco said it would install cameras around its supply chain in an attempt to be more transparent so customers can see where the food they are eating has come from.
“There’s nothing for anybody to hide. There never should be,” said Clarke.
“The impact so far on sales is minimal,” Clarke added, though he acknowledged that some customers are buying fewer frozen ready meals.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King said in response to Clarke’s comments: “These announcements highlight how important a detailed knowledge of and involvement in your supply chain is. This is something that’s part of Sainsbury’s 144 year heritage.
“As our customers know Sainsbury’s has been investing in British farming for many years and has genuine partnerships with our 2,500 farmers and growers. We have ten Development Groups, with over £40m invested to date. We’re committed to doubling the amount of British food we sell by 2020.
“We have also invested in quality control across all parts of our business - from basics to Taste the Difference - with around 100 people employed to ensure our high standards are maintained.
“We published our 20x20 Sustainability Plan back in 2011 as we envisaged a fundamental change in food supply chains, and we’re now a long way down that journey.
“As other retailers grasp this we expect customers will ask challenging questions and we know that our customers trust Sainsbury’s to continue to take the lead.”