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Tag Food

Supermarkets Finally have to Sell Non Perfect Fruit and Veg 0


fresh-vegetablesSupermarkets constant drive for perfection in fresh produce, which has conditioned the consumer to only accept perfect looking fruit and vegetables, is finally going to change this year, due to the terrible summer weather farmers have endured.

Supermarkets have finally relaxed their rules to allow smaller fruit and vegetables onto their shelves after the dreadful summer weather devastated harvests of British crops.

Many farmers are reporting that their yields of seasonal staples such as brussels sprouts, peas, carrots and potatoes are 20%-40% down after the wettest summer in a century. Supermarkets are reducing their usual requirement for brussels sprouts to be 23-40mm in circumference as many vegetables are about 10% smaller than normal, according to the British Growers Association.

The poor growing conditions this summer have resulted in some sprouts having darker external leaves, referred to as ‘purpling’. This colour difference has no effect on flavour, but Sainsbury’s said it would be accepting sprouts with purpling this year.

The pea harvest, which ran three to four weeks late, was down by about 45%, cutting farmers’ revenues by £20m. Peas are now already being imported from Spain.

The potato harvest is down 5% or more. Tesco has reduced its size specification, whilst Sainsbury’s is trialling selling a ‘basic potato’ range with more cracks and imperfection.

The apple crop is also down by about 27% in the UK and 20% in Europe, making it the worst since 1997. There will be a shortage of English apples by January which will drive the prices up by about 17%.

Tesco said: “We are helping our growers and suppliers by stocking produce that covers different sizes, weights and sometimes shapes… we have no plans to change our pack weights, although the vegetables might be smaller.”

With our ever growing population and inevitable shortage of food, perhaps the consumer should be ‘reconditioned’ and become more accustomed to buying and eating more ‘imperfect’ fresh produce. We should all fully support our UK farmers and buy what’s produced, not just what the supermarkets think we should buy. Questions should be asked what happens to all the ‘non-standard size and shaped’ food currently!

Rural Stats about the UK Countryside 0



  • 5.5 million - The number of people employed by the rural economy
  • 800 - Village shops close each year
  • £2.2 billion - Domestic food and drink contribution to the UK economy
  • British livestock is highly sought after for international breeding
  • Agricultural contribution to the economy in £millions
    • 2001 - £6720
    • 2002 - £6852
    • 2003 - £7151
    • 2004 - £6900
    • 2005 - £6750
    • 2006 - £6550
  • 70% of all our drinking water comes from the upland areas of the UK
  • UK Land use across the UK - 80% farmland - 20% non-farmland
  • UK self-sufficiency - 60% domestically grown food - 40% imported food
  • The UK is the 7th largest producer of wool globally
  • The rural tourism sector generates £14 billion from 75 million visits per year
  • 60,000 new entrants are needed in the farming industry in the next decade

Source: The Prince’s Countryside Fund

The UK Food Labelling Con 4


union-jackUnder current European Union (EU) labelling regulations the country shown on a food label refers to the place the product was last processed, not where it was produced.

A labelling loophole allows grocery chains to mark products as “Produced in the UK” if the last significant change to it took place in Britain, even if the main ingredient comes from abroad.

So supermarkets for instance can sell sausages “made in Britain” using cheap Danish pork and legitimately label them as British sausages. They can legally label chicken sandwiches as “Produced in the UK”, even if the chicken has come from intensive poultry sheds in Thailand, because they have placed the chicken between bread.

Clear and transparent labelling on all meat products sold in the UK is essential so consumers can make informed choices and have confidence in the products they are buying. British farmers are subject to some of the highest animal welfare and production standards in the world, not just within the EU.

Using the Pig industry as an example:

More than 90 percent of UK pig meat is produced under the auspices of farm assurance schemes, e.g. Assured British Pigs. These schemes have defined written welfare standards which are audited by independent annual inspection and quarterly visits from a veterinary surgeon. 70 percent of pigs imported to the UK did not meet UK minimum legal standards.

The UK has a higher cost of production than most countries within the EU. Research shows the cost of production was 12 percent higher in UK than the EU, and more than 60 percent higher than in North and South America. World Trade Organisation rules are generally interpreted as precluding any trade restrictions on the basis of animal welfare standards, placing the EU and UK in particular at a significant competitive disadvantage!

Food retailers could play a major role in ensuring all food sold in the UK meets UK production standards. Because food is not labelled according to its welfare provenance, then concerned consumers are not able to exercise their choice and may, unwittingly, purchase products that do not meet their requirements.

Below are some major food retailers labelling cons:

ASDA - 6 mini pork pies - These Pork pies were produced in the UK, however the meat is from anywhere inside the EU.

Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ - Spaghetti Bolognese - From the front of the label the consumer is led to believe the beef in the Bolognese is from Scotland… However the fine print on the back says that it is also produced using Italian, German and French pork.

Tesco ‘Finest’ - British Butter Roast Turkey - This butter roast turkey is marked as British and even has a British flag on the label… However turn over and you find out that the turkey in the product may have been slaughtered in the Republic of Ireland.

Tesco - Lincolnshire 6 Sausage Rolls - These sausages rolls are clearly marketed as coming from Lincolnshire… But the meat can come from anywhere inside the EU – that’s 27 possible countries.

WSPA ‘not in my cuppa’ campaign – mega dairies, the real story 4


cowsThe World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) ‘not in my cuppa‘ campaign is spot on, but they seem to be missing one vital question, ‘why are mega dairy applications happening in the first place’?

Figures show the average cost of British milk in supermarkets is 25.94p per litre. The average cost of milk production is 29.1p per litre, a gap of 3.16p.

According to figures from the Milk Development Council, the number of dairy farmers in England and Wales in December 2010 stood at 11,041, a decline of 461 on the year before. Since 2002 there has been a 58 per cent drop from 19,000!

The WSPA’s recent survey conducted by Ipsos MORI showed that, excluding price, freshness is the most important consideration for the majority (69 per cent) of adults who buy milk. However, over a fifth (22 per cent) put the cows’ welfare above this. When asked if they would ever buy milk produced from around 8,000 cows kept in large indoor sheds, 61 per cent said “never”.

The reason normal sized dairy farms are going out of business is because the price of milk paid to farmers is not sustainable. An NFU report shows that dairy farmers lose an average of over 3p per litre of milk they produce. About 11bn litres of milk are produced annually across the UK, resulting in farmers losing £330m.

As with most industries, the bigger the producer, the cheaper a product can be produced. The same sadly applies to the dairy industry.

Supermarkets are the main culprit for mega-dairies as they regularly sell milk as a loss-leader (below cost price) to entice consumers into shops, so they want to buy it as cheaply as possible. Perhaps we as consumers should demand higher prices, but can you see that happening?

Supermarkets raising prices higher than inflation: what about the farmers 0


supermarketsUK supermarkets are raising prices higher than inflation, risking a government inquiry, investment bank UBS has warned. But are supermarkets paying porducers more, or just pocketing the profit?

Food inflation in the UK was at an annual rate of 4.6% in February, its highest level for 18 months, markedly higher than the Eurozone average of 1.8% and the US average of 1.5%, according to a new UBS report.

The sharp rise contributed to the overall UK inflation rate increase to 4% earlier this month, twice the Bank of England’s target.
The sharp rises in commodity prices over the past year would justify a 3-5% increase in processed food prices, but some supermarkets have raised prices by 6-6.5%.

UBS suggests that supermarkets may be increasing profit margins from food sales, which could trigger a competition inquiry.
Paul Donovan says: “Prices are rising in excess of justifiable cost increases.”

Retailers say poor weather and a weak pound has pushed up food import costs but UBS says the “scale” of inflation has made Britain the most vulnerable to political intervention.

The report also adds that only 20-25 per cent of the final processed food price reflects “commodity input”, with most of the cost consisting of packaging, labour, marketing and distribution.

Wheat price rises affecting the cost of food 0


harvesterRussia, the world’s third-largest wheat exporter, announced a ban on exports of grain for the rest of the year because of wildfires that started last month and continue to lay waste to farmland. The wheat embargo had an immediate impact on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the hub of wheat futures, and sent the price soaring on indexes across the world.

Wheat prices have fluctuated significantly over the last 10 years. In 2000 the price was around £60 per tonne, it spiked in 2004 to £115 per tonne and feel back to around £60. In 2007 it rocketed to nearly £200 per tonne and then dipped to around the £100 per tonne. The Russian embargo has created another spike to £150 per tonne.

These price rises are obviously great news for UK farmers if they are able to take advantage. The overall price fluctuations however, make for very difficult business planning from year to year. These are the ups and downs of being tied to global commodity prices.

The US Department of Agriculture estimates that Russia will produce 25%-30% less wheat this year than in 2009. But does this mean that the price of bread has to go up?

If a loaf of bread costs £1, probably 10p-15p of that is actually wheat. The majority of the cost goes into packaging, the marketing and the distribution costs. The biggest cost is the profit margin the supermarkets make. As you can imagine, when the supermarkets put their prices up under the auspices of raw material rises, these prices never go back down when the raw material does.

In 2007, the supermarkets hiked up the price of a loaf when wheat went up to £200 a tonne. Funnily enough, the price of bread never came down in 2008 when the wheat price fell back to £100!

BBC - Russia ban on grain export begins

BBC - No export limit for Ukraine grain

British food 0


redtractorDoes the Red Tractor symbol actually mean the food was produced in the UK? Is there any particular reason you need a magnifying glass to see the logo?

These may seem rather silly questions but every time I see ‘Danish’ bacon in the supermarket, I wonder how they manage to get their brand name / logo to fill half the packaging. When you do eventually find a pack of British bacon, probably equating to about 5% of the shelf space, the logo seems laughable in comparison.

Since its launch in 2000 by the then Prime Minister, the concept seems to have been well adopted. Is it then just the typical ‘British thing’ of not wanting to shout about our fantastic produce and let then competition muscle in? Our animal welfare standards and crop husbandry are world class in comparison to many countries we import from (naming no names…), so why aren’t we shouting louder.

I would very much like to hear any ones views about this topic and all the other various British food logos we seem to use.