Horsemeat scandal blamed for slide in British beef sales

Beef Central, 15/01/2014

The horsemeat substation scandal that emerged a year ago this week has been blamed for causing a three percent drop in all red meat sales across Britain during 2013.

British consumers bought 550,000 tonnes less red meat in 2013 that the previous year, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper, with frozen burgers and ready meals containing beef the hardest hit.

The scandal erupted when DNA tests detected horsemeat in frozen beef burgers sold by British supermarkets.

Sales of frozen burgers reportedly fell 7.2pc and frozen ready meals fell 7.6pc.

Pork sales also declined for the year, but sales of lamb increased by 14.2pc, as a glut of New Zealand lamb pushed prices down.

A survey by Ipsos MORI and The Grocer magazine said more than 30pc of adults said the scandal has changed the way they buy and choose food, and 10pc of adults said they were now eating less processed meat as a result.

The survey also showed that the scandal had provided a boost for small independent butchers.

Seven percent of shoppers said they were using high-street butchers more than before, while the survey showed that Tesco was the supermarket most damaged, with one-in-five adults saying they now regarded the UK's biggest retailer less favourably.

The report said other factors were at play beyond concerns about provenance, health or environment. While the weight of red meat bought sank, the overall value rose 3.9pc, with beef up 3.8pc as prices rose an average 7pc.

A spokesman for British meat marketing board Eblex said part of the rise in the price of beef was due to supermarkets responding to demand for meat reared closer to home.

Named varieties such as Aberdeen Angus and Hereford were struggling to meet demand.

"Retailers are being much more specific about the processes involved and where the meat should come from. No one wants to find themselves back on the front pages for the wrong reason."


Meanwhile, Dutch food authorities have issued an official recall for up to 11 tonnes of horse meat that was illegally sold as beef in Holland last year.

The horse meat came from 200 slaughtered animals originating in equestrian riding centres, pharmaceutical laboratories and private owners in France and entered the food chain at the height of an international scandal in 2013.

Included in the fraud was meat from dozens of horses that were used by a French pharmaceutical firm, Sanofi Pasteur, to develop serums against rabies and other diseases.

The meat, unfit for human consumption and accompanied by fake documents labelling it as beef, was delivered to five Dutch companies via Belgium between January and October last year.

The latest fraud involving 200 horse carcases was only discovered on December 27 after an investigation by officials from the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA).

It followed the arrest last month of 21 cattle traders, butchers and veterinarians in France on suspicion of illegally selling the horse meat.

Some of the meat has been traced but most has almost certainly been eaten by consumers, although it posed little danger to human health, Dutch food inspectors said.





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