13th February 2013
With the horsemeat scandal still engulfing the food industry I met with Devon based farmers near Exeter earlier this week. At a well attended meeting, organised by the NFU, local farmers voiced their concerns regarding the problems facing British food producers, the proposed reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the impact that 12 months of almost constant rain is having on the food chain.
Farmers, and NFU representatives, were keen to stress that if the public is concerned about where their food comes from then they should back British farmers and buy British meat.
Local Exeter NFU Chairman, Mark Weakes, assured me that British and South West farmers produce some of the finest food in the world. Animals are reared to high welfare standards, with complete traceability within the food chain. If anyone is in any doubt as to the content of their food then they can be confident in buying British.
It is fair to say that the last 12 months have not been easy for South West farmers. The weather has been a disaster for British crops and pushed up the price of food, and the CAP proposals coming out of Brussels will only make things worse. This latest scandal, although not a perceived threat to human health, raises serious questions about the origins and content of the food that we are buying, and the accuracy of the labelling that goes with it.
British farmers spend a lot of time making sure that their animals are properly raised and that there are accurate records relating to their livestock. The problem is that not all food producers are being as honest. I have been saying for some time that we need to be doing more to support our local farmers, and this current crisis only underlines the reasons for this.
I hope that consumers use the current problems as a reason to support local butchers who know exactly where their meat comes from, or alternatively by ensuring that they ‘buy British’ when in the supermarkets. It is time to back British farmers.