Supermarket Buyers - 2 Faced or what?

  wee eddie 11:28 12 Feb 2013

In the last couple of years The Supermarkets and their Buyers have made British Meat Growers (aka Farmers) jump through smaller and smaller hoops to verify the credentials of their animals.

At the same time, they have been going abroad and sourcing cheaper and cheaper supplies of meat for their "Made-Up" products, using the British Farmer's inability to supply competitively as their excuse.

To me, this puts the whole fiasco of Mis-labeling at their door, as their attitude has encouraged petty criminals to purchase stock of dubious parentage.

I think that we're talking "3 (not so) Wise Monkeys" here, trying hard to shift the blame from their own shoulders.

  woodchip 14:16 12 Feb 2013

wee eddie I fully Agree, But the buck stays with the Public Looking for cheaper products all the time

  oresome 14:23 12 Feb 2013

I don't understand why horse meat is cheaper to produce than beef or is it that the horse meat concerned wasn't intended for human consumption.

  Bing.alau 14:32 12 Feb 2013

I think that I was taught that horses ended up in the Knacker's yard, where no part of it was wasted. A lot was made in to glue or was that just the hooves?

  johndrew 15:27 12 Feb 2013

Much of what has happened appears to me to be driven by a profit motive. Consumers want cheaper products, suppliers want their profit margin and opportunists (criminals?) simply want money.

As a result suppliers have looked to the cheapest buying areas for their supplies to keep costs down for consumers and retain their margins; the criminal element has examined the process, found a weakness and exploited it.

In the meanwhile sources which have very high traceability for their animals (British farmers?) have also higher overheads and been unable to compete effectively.

It's all a little like paying peanuts and being surprised when you get monkeys!!

As for horse meat, it is much cheaper than beef - around 25% of the price - so is very profitable if sold as beef. Countries - such as Romania - use horses far more for transport and agriculture than we do and have a good number for slaughter each year. Many, far from being put through the Knacker's yard for glue/pet food, end up on the table in other European countries as part of a normal(?) diet.

  Forum Editor 15:39 12 Feb 2013

"To me, this puts the whole fiasco of Mis-labeling at their door, as their attitude has encouraged petty criminals to purchase stock of dubious parentage."

That may be your view, but consider for a moment the real situation.

A supermarket own brand product - for that's what you are talking about - is manufactured on contract to a strict set of conditions...or it should be. Multiple food retailing is a fiercely competitive business, one of the most competitive there is, and of course these business want to source supplies from the company which offers the best price. That's how competition works, and all things being equal it provides consumers with a low-priced alternative to the better-known brand names.

You're blaming the supermarkets for something that has been done behind their backs - a foreign company has used horse-meat, and by doing so has breached the terms of a contract. The supermarket didn't know about it because no testing was done at the point of delivery - when the goods were shipped into the UK distribution depot.

Nobody's health has been adversely affected, and the loophole will be plugged, but in the meantime it's unfair to lay the blame for underhanded practices in Romania on a British company which might reasonably have expected its supplier to deliver what it was paid for.

If it's apples and carrots it's easy to spot substitutions, but processed meat products are a completely different matter.

  oresome 16:01 12 Feb 2013


Accepting your statement that horsemeat is 25% of the price of beef, why is this?

Both animals have to be reared to a optimum size for slaughter. Does the horse put on weight quicker and eat less?

If meat production is so much more efficient using horses, I'm surprised we ever considered cattle.

  john bunyan 16:31 12 Feb 2013


The reason that horsemeat in UK is cheaper than beef is not to do with the cost of raising the animal. Beef cattle are reared for the purpose and inputs and costs are measured to check margins. Horses, here, are raised for riding, in the main, or in the case of New Forest ponies, have very little inputs.Horses , at the end of their useful life, are sent to a slaughterhouse in a similar (if seemingly callous way) to a car being sent to a breakers yard, where the price received has little to do with the cost of production. All animals that are fit for human consumption have some inedible by products, and most of these have a value. Cow beef, often used as an excellent ingredient for canned steak and kidney puddings or in steak pies, but a bit tough as a fresh meat, is also cheaper for similar reasons. (Meat tougher but cow has produced its profits in milk) I doubt that if our taste and culture were to demand horsemeat per se, the price would be much higher than beef. It would be a healthier option as horse fat is far more unsaturated than beef fat, and when rendered is more like oil.

  Forum Editor 16:48 12 Feb 2013

"...horsemeat is 25% of the price of beef, why is this?"

I imagine it's because the market for it is limited - at least in this country anyway. Horses eat just as much as cattle, and I wouldn't think they gain weight at a faster rate. Horsemeat also has a higher fat content than beef, and that may affect the price,

This whole horsemeat saga has really been brought about because of the change in European meat regulation. Budget meat products used to be made with Desinewed meat that was removed from the bones of cattle under pressure after the better cuts had been removed. The resulting finely minced product was used in processed meat products.

That changed last year, because now it's illegal to call DSM 'meat' on a package. Suddenly the manufacturers of these products had to find new sources for the big quantities of cheap meat they needed.

The stage, as they say, was set, and unscrupulous abbatoirs and/or meat processing factories have responded.

There's a taboo about eating horsemeat in the UK, but that's all it is - it's perfectly legal to sell it as a foodstuff here, provided you don't call it something else.

  oresome 16:52 12 Feb 2013

john bunyan

Thanks for that explanation. I can see that if horses are primarily used for other purposes, the "scrap" value will be less than the cost of rearing at the end of their life.

I didn't realise that there were sufficient old horses, primarily used for leisure purposes being slaughtered to keep food factories supplied.

  wee eddie 17:00 12 Feb 2013

FE - I have considered the real situation.

The Supermarkets are competing with each other on price. > They know that UK Producers cannot meet their price because of the Sourcing Requirements put upon them. > They know that certain Suppliers, based in Europe and sourcing their Supplies out-with the UK Governed Market, will be able to undercut the UK Producers. > Yet they then throw up their hands in surprise, when they discover that the Supplies used, aren't kosher, if that is an acceptable parallel.

Whereas, I doubt they knew that such a high proportion of the Meat Content was Equine, they will have realised that the price quoted was not for Fully Traceable Beef.

In other words.

"So long as no one tells us, we will happily buy your product, which undercuts anything our UK Farmers can produce, because we demand Full Traceability of their ingredients."

British Farmers stuffed again.

First the Pork, now the Beef!

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