BMPA updates, as they happen, on developing issues in the meat industry.
Contains links to member only content.
Labour MP for Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield didn’t mince his words in a speech to Parliament this week, directly accusing Government of ignoring UK industry and using the Northern Ireland Protocol to pick a political fight with the EU. But he also highlighted the practical approach Britain could be taking and which BMPA has been advocating.
He told the House that “the UK Trade and Business Commission…has listened to the voices of business on the issue. The chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association told us that the cost of exporting food has gone up considerably and described the rules the Prime Minister negotiated as a “monster of a system”, but one that could be simplified through a veterinary agreement.”
Hot on the heels of South Africa, France became the first EU country to ban meat related names for plant-based products by publishing a decree yesterday. But the ban only applies to products produced in France, leaving the door still open to imports. Nor does it apply to the word ‘burger’ which is not meat specific.
The South African Government has instructed it’s food standards authority to seize any product wrongly named, but their plant-based industry has hit back saying the ‘extreme interpretation’ of the existing regulation cannot be legally applied to plant products.
George Eustice will announce today that funding to develop ‘sustainable farm-based proteins’ will be made available for farmers, growers, businesses and academics to collaborate on projects that seek to improve the efficiency and sustainability of farm-based protein production, including protein crops like beans and peas and traditional livestock production, in order to help boost domestic production of healthy and sustainable food.
This might be achieved through the development of new methane reducing feeds and supplements, or the breeding of new sustainable and resilient crops and livestock.
Industry publication Food Manufacture will deliver a free webinar on Wednesday 6 July for food businesses facing the challenge of reformulating products in a tight timescale to make them healthier or to substitute ingredients in short supply as a result of the Ukraine crisis.
Experts from Allergy Action, the Institute of Food Science and Technology and law firm Osborne Clarke will share first-hand experiences of the pitfalls and opportunities inherent in reformulation. Plus sponsor RSSL, which works with companies across the food and drink industry, outlines practical advice, guidance and case studies highlighting solutions.
It recently emerged that Defra and the FSA had changed the requirement for non-assured livestock suppliers to provide a veterinary attestation of regular farm visits instead of a farmer declaration. The new requirement was written into guidance and published with no consultation or communication with the industry and took everyone by surprise. Moreover, it provided no clear details of exactly when and how the new rules should be implemented. Defra have not provided any justification for the change as there have never been any issues reported issues with the current system.
This change would have instantly rendered a large amount of product ineligible for export but following emergency discussions Defra has agreed to suspend this decision until 13 December. BMPA along with other trade bodies are now pressing them to reverse their decision or at least provide an explanation of why it is necessary to add this extra layer of bureaucracy. We will update you as the discussions unfold.
In a recent BBC Farming Today interview, the new Chairman of the EFRA Committee, Robert Goodwill MP, levelled an unambiguous criticism at the Government (particularly the Home Office) on their lack of appreciation of how the labour crisis is playing out in the meat processing sector. He accused Government of putting the future of the sector in danger.
The warning follows the publication of the Government’s response to EFRA’s report earlier this year, which rejects the call for an extension to the seasonal worker scheme and a reduction in the English language requirement for skilled workers. But Mr Goodwill went further to explain the unique recruitment challenges that meat companies face, particularly at a time of record low unemployment.
Listen from 9:16 minutes
On 29 June Nick Allen will join other industry experts to speak to an audience of key policy officials from across Westminster who can directly influence how Government supports the food sector. A lot is being asked of UK food companies and this is another good opportunity to present the issues and opportunities to the people involved in creating food policy.
A new report on the Australia Free Trade Agreement from the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee has issued a strong warning to Government not to compromise ‘core standards’ which could disadvantage domestic producers. It also calls for help for the UK food and farming sector to the tune of £278m which represents the future loss to trade, according to the Government’s own estimates, as a result of the new FTA.
The report also says that Government should pay more attention to the voices of UK food producers when negotiating future trade deals before they’re signed. We’ve warned about the pitfalls of not including industry experts in negotiations in the past (particularly on getting quotas and volumes wrong), and the unintended consequences that can result. New Chair of the EFRA Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill MP said: “They have the expertise to help us get better deals all round – let’s use it.”
Another report out this week from the Sustainable Food Trust advocates for a drastic reduction in intensive pig and poultry farming, more fruit and vegetable cultivation and maintaining the level of beef, lamb and dairy production, all by employing regenerative farming techniques. It also says that consumers, in a nutshell, must eat less, waste less and pay a fair price for our food.
CEO Patrick Holden explained to Farming Today that depleted soils are the hidden price that we are paying for cheap food and that their recommendations will eventually lead to better diets and more robust food self-sufficiency. However ex NFU President Sir Peter Kendall cautioned that such a radical change to food production is not “realistic in the short term” and would struggle to cater to Britain’s 67 million strong population. And, Patrick Holden conceded that they don’t know what this “farming transition” will look like yet. It’s an interesting discussion and one that is set to continue.
Listen from 6:37 minutes
On the back of this week’s two major Government announcements on food strategy and the Northern Ireland Protocol, Nick Allen will join other industry experts on 29 June to speak to an audience of key policy officials from across Westminster including Defra, the Cabinet Office, Department for International Trade, Department for the Economy and the Climate Change Committee.
It will be an opportunity to press the meat sector’s concerns and ideas on how to strengthen the UK’s food security whilst delivering improved sustainability and productivity. Government has indicated a willingness to listen to Industry’s suggestions on the kind of policy and investment that will be needed to support a robust food manufacturing sector, and Minister of State Victoria Prentis will be there to hear what we have to say.
While it was inevitable that the Northern Ireland Protocol would introduce some extra bureaucracy, it also provides the mechanism to deal with the practical issues of moving goods on the ground. Since we left the single market and customs union, our members have adapted to the new system and things are now running smoothly.
While it would be preferable not to have the extra friction, we understand that the new trading environment demands it. We also know that the current system is far more preferable to the kind of trade war that could be sparked if the UK decides to unilaterally walk away from the agreement.
So, from an industry perspective, the NI Protocol is working, and the decision on whether or not to walk away from it is firmly a political issue. If there is one thing we would ask of Government, it’s that it steps up the development and implementation of the promised technological solutions to facilitate smoother border crossings for goods.
Ahead of the Government announcement on the Northern Ireland Protocol this week, Nick Allen spoke to Times Radio to clarify the meat industry’s position. He explained that the mainstream suppliers who have operations in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland are coping with the bureaucracy saying: “Whatever they [Government] decide to do about the protocol, don’t use the food sector as reason for doing it. We’re coping”, adding that they must “be very clear that it’s being done for political reasons”.
Following Nick’s interview, DEFRA Minister Victoria Prentis said this: “Nick is somebody I work very closely with and I do always listen to what he has to say. It’s clear to me that there are differences of opinion about how well the protocol is working and that we must go really sensitively and carefully through the next stages of these negotiations with the EU.”
She added that “Nick’s right on many counts. We have worked very hard to make things work for the food industry” but wisely cautioned that all sides in the negotiations need to show “a real practical willingness to sort this out”. Industry is showing that kind of pragmatism, we also need Government to demonstrate it, too.
Listen from 1hr 18 mins
The Government’s new Food Strategy White Paper demonstrates a keen awareness of the strategic importance of Britain’s food producers and manufacturers to food security, the environment and public health. But, while it contains many good ambitions and visions for the future, there’s little in the way of explanation of just how these will be achieved.
One of those ambitions is to have a robust workforce of skilled people to keep the food supply chain moving. As we’ve written previously, there are solutions to this that could be implemented right now. But the White Paper suggests returning to the drawing board with two more reviews. We’ve examined this in our latest article.
News of the closure of CF Industries’ fertiliser plant in Cheshire has again sparked concerns over Co2 supplies in the UK. On a call this week we were assured by CF Industries that there will be no disruption to Co2 supplies to the meat industry, however the closure of one of only a handful of facilities in the UK means that future supplies will inevitably be less secure, particularly if something were to go wrong with the remaining plant at Billingham.
The huge price rise for Co2 has prompted some companies to consider capturing and selling the gas, which would previously have been vented into the atmosphere as a by product. However, this production will take time to come on stream and isn’t guaranteed to replace lost capacity in the UK, which will leave us more reliant on overseas suppliers.
Listen (from 33:23 minutes)
Speaking in front of the Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee inquiry into mobilising behaviour change in order to achieve environment and climate change goals, George Eustice said that he finds it ‘depressing’ that the debate about meat has been simplified into ‘livestock are bad, therefore eat less meat’. Instead, he advocated for developing technologies to reduce the amount of methane animals emit rather than ‘lecture people about meat eating’, adding that ‘the government has no intention of doing that’.
Mr Eustice said: “We are ultimately omnivores – in our natural state we will have meat and animal products and proteins as part of our diet… That’s the natural state of us as a species.” He also cited a number of innovations currently under development and assured the committee that this focus on technological solutions is rooted in a ‘proper appreciation of the more holistic role of livestock in the farmed landscape and the environment.’
Following a 42% response to AHDB’s recent ‘Shape the Future’ survey, the results show broad consensus in the beef and lamb sectors on what areas levy payers want prioritised. Companies large and small seem to agree on how much resource and attention AHDB should be directing towards issues such as the reputation of meat, environmental imperatives, standards, trade and support for primary producers.
However, there’s a little more divergence of views amongst levy payers in the pork sector. Most notable is the different weight placed on certain issues by small companies versus larger players. Clearly it reflects a different dynamic both in the production and supply chain but also in the domestic and international trade landscape. We’ll leave readers to make their own interpretation of the numbers.
The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that Tesco failed to substantiate environmental claims in an advertising campaign for their Plant Chef burgers. The ruling stated that: “The Code requires that environmental claims about an advertised product are based on its full life cycle and if they are not, such claims are likely to breach the Code unless the ad makes this clear and does not mislead consumers about the product’s total environmental impact.”
This pushback against greenwashing is playing out more robustly in the US where Beyond Meat has been hit with two lawsuits alleging it ‘grossly overstates’ the protein quality and content in its products. In contrast, a similar complaint against a Sainsbury’s advert was not upheld by the ASA because the environmental claims were of a more general nature and not specific to any one product.
While the number of people following a vegan or vegetarian diet here in the UK has remained steady year on year, the number of flexitarians has risen slightly since 2021. The Kantar data shows that 63% of this key demographic choose their food because they enjoy the taste, whereas a smaller 16.7% choose it for health benefits. AHDB point out there’s still an opportunity to strengthen the health messaging surrounding meat to this group.
Still, the Kantar figures show that the vast majority of UK consumers include meat in their diets: 62.4 million versus 4.2 million who don’t.
Author Jayne Buxton has just published a new book that seeks to untangle all the claims and counter claims currently clouding the debate about meat versus plants. It’s a big read but worthwhile for anyone interested in looking after both their own and their planet’s health. Simply put, we can (and should) do both by sticking to a balanced diet of sustainably produced fresh meat, vegetables, plants and fruit. The book explains how we can do that whilst not getting side-tracked and seduced by clever marketing and bogus ‘scientific’ claims that distort the narrative surrounding how human and planetary health is impacted by our diet.
Through a careful review of current evidence, Jayne Buxton shows us that the choice shouldn’t be meat or plants, but meat and plants – just the right kind.
The Home Office has produced a guidance document that outlines the various visas, application processes and checks required to sponsor Ukrainians who are already in the UK or are coming into the country as refugees. It also has details of the various services and contacts that offer support and advice to employers including the Refugee Employment Network, the National Employer and Partnership Team plus other helplines and resources.
With work starting on the world’s largest bioreactors to produce cultivated meat in the US (11,800 tonnes of beef and chicken a year by 2026 and 13,000 tonnes by 2030), a new project starting September 2022 here in the UK seeks to uncover what kind of threats and opportunities cultivated meat presents to traditional producers.
The research, led by the Royal Agricultural University, will bring together farmers, Government, food industry players, environmental groups and cultured meat companies to explore how (or if) the cultured meat industry could affect or even complement traditional farming. They’ll be pondering who the winners and losers could be, for example is cultured meat more likely to displace chicken and pork or beef and lamb? They will also look at some key concerns including food safety, regulation and the environment.
It was recently announced in the Queen’s speech that the Government is bringing forward the “Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill”, which will enable plants and animals developed through precision breeding techniques to be authorised and brought to market through a simpler regime. Defra put out a press release outlining the rationale behind relaxing the rules which will only apply in England, with Scotland and Wales opting to maintain current regulation.
While gene editing isn’t banned in the EU, it is heavily regulated and requires producers to jump through many more hoops. From a trade perspective, something we should consider is how to avoid losing access to overseas markets if UK producers working to different rules are not able to adequately demonstrate traceability. Gene edited animals, feed and crops in our food supply chain must be able to be properly tracked, which could prove difficult and may add complication to the UK’s internal supply chain.
The European Commission has agreed to officially register a campaign designed to pressure governments to pull funding and subsidies from livestock farming and support cell farming and plant proteins instead. It means that the European Citizens campaign to gather one million signatures across at least seven member states can begin within the next six months. If they reach their target, the Commission will be obliged to present the initiative to the European Parliament for consideration.
Our European association, UECBV, is particularly concerned at the Commission’s apparent openness to put into question the whole livestock sector, practices and professionalism, and will be discussing how to respond at the next Meat Industry Section meeting on 10 June in Brussels.
Former Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Sir Robert Goodwill has been elected the new Chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee to replace Neil Parish who resigned on 4 May. In his first interview on Farming Today, he promised to hold the Government to account, and said his prior experience as a minister means that he knows ‘where the bodies are buried’.
His predecessor certainly wasn’t afraid to call out those giving evidence if he suspected fudging or obfuscation and it seems Sir Robert may prove equally robust in his challenges. He commented: ‘Having been at the other end of the committee room, I hope I’ll be able to pick if ministers do try pulling the sort of tricks that I used to pull when I was a minister’.
Listen from 9:23 minutes
In his latest article, Flint Global’s Sam Lowe examines the state of play in international trade and highlights some curious anomalies in the extent to which the UK imports and exports have recovered versus other countries. He presents a particularly interesting graph showing how much ‘low hanging fruit’ we’ve already picked-off in trade deals and what might be left to pursue.
The article finishes with several suggestions of what the Government should be doing to improve the UK’s trade position beyond simply signing trade deals. As well as working more closely with industry, he advocates for the stabilisation of the UK’s regulatory regime much of which is either temporary or in flux. He says: “An ever-changing and ambiguous regulatory regime has a negative impact on the UK business and trading environment. To address this the government should be clearer about its regulatory intentions, stick to self-imposed deadlines rather than continually pushing them back at the last moment, and only make changes when there is a clear economic rationale to do so.”
Following a successful tour last November, Unsworth are hosting a second Dublin Port Tour and Q&A Event on Tuesday 7 June. You’ll get the chance to ask questions directly to Irish Authorities, Dublin Port Customs and DAERA representatives to gain a better understanding of the process of UK import and export into Ireland. Previous attendees have found these tours extremely useful in helping to reduce costs and save time.
The day covers the full UK export process to Dublin Ferry Port and has a walkthrough and tour of the Port of Dublin to see the import process first hand. Registrations close 25 May.
The Association of Labour Providers recently delivered a webinar to BMPA members to give them an insight into the current labour market recruitment pool, guide them through the complications of the Skilled Worker immigration process and give them practical help to source and retain workers. We’ve uploaded it onto the BMPA Members’ Portal.
After lengthy discussions, Defra has provided BMPA with updated guidance on triangular trade of products of animal origin where a product is imported into Great Britain then re-exported into the EU. It articulates the EU’s current interpretation of the rules and seeks to help exporters minimise the risk of consignments being refused at EU Border Control Posts.
It provides guidance on the conditions that apply to two specific types of triangular trade with the EU and includes a separate explanation of how trade between GB and Northern Ireland will be treated differently. Defra has also confirmed that this will be further debated at the next Trade & Cooperation Agreement technical discussion meeting on 14 June along with certification and regionalisation.
BMPA has written to the Food Standards Agency requesting that it removes a reference to the the flawed ‘Global Burden of Disease’ (GBD) study in its five year strategy document entitled “Food You Can Trust”. The GBD report’s accuracy has been challenged by expert academics and doctors, and it’s authors have now committed to publishing a revised version at some point.
The watchdog explained to Farmers Weekly that they cited the study to make the broad point “that diet is one of the largest factors that can increase your risk of developing a disease”. But, we would contend that this isn’t a good enough reason to use questionable scientific claims, particularly in light of their second guiding principle that “we are science and evidence led” and that “we tell the truth about food”. It’s clear that bad dietary choices lead to illnesses. What we’re objecting to is the study specifically blaming meat.
Andy Coyne at Just Food Magazine has written an overview of the food industry labour market as it stands now. While Brexit and Covid-19 remain key factors in the continued woes, a new factor has materialised which is being called ‘the great resignation’ and which has changed the shape of the overall labour market both here and across the Atlantic.
The article explores what is putting people off working in the industry and has some interesting examples of what meat firms are doing about it.
In his latest newsletter, Sam Lowe makes a good attempt to articulate what changes to the NI Protocol the UK Government is actually asking for. In doing so he also provides a good explanation of how different parts of the agreement are working in practice for businesses, and highlights what areas could practically be improved versus what penguins are just not going to fly.
We’ve noticed that so-called EU intransigence over the protocol is often mis-characterised by Government and the media. Effectively the commission is digging its heels in over the concepts of the protocol (for example, if we’re outside the single market and customs union there must, by definition, be some level of border checks), but is willing to discuss the detail of how they’re implemented. We heard a good analogy for this: We can argue about what the speed limit on roads should be, but we all agree there needs to be a speed limit and that police should be checking that people are sticking to it.
The new Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging requirements will now be rolled-out from 2024 instead of 2023 with fees based on recyclability being pushed out to 2025. We’ve uploaded a handy overview graphic to the Members’ Portal that shows the new timeline and deadlines for changes.
We’ve uploaded to the Members’ Portal the latest intelligence to come out of our European meat association on what to expect from proposed EU legislation which will be based on updated scientific knowledge. It aims to improve the sustainability of food systems, the quality of food and reduce the use of antibiotics to preserve biodiversity.
The document includes updates and future dates for debates on animal transport, welfare at the time of killing and proposed welfare labelling.
The Food Processing, Marketing & Cooperation Grant Scheme (FPMC) provides grant funding to businesses within the Scottish food and drink sector to enable them to develop new or existing food processing facilities. It covers capital projects as well as support for marketing and market development both here and overseas. The deadline for applications is midnight on 19th June 2022 and all work must be completed and costs claimed by 31 March 2023.
Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) have just published the latest global data showing that while global supplies of beef will remain tight, British herds are predicted to increase during this year and next, offering a good opportunity to sell into high demand at elevated prices.
Conversely, the Australian sheep flock has already increased over 5% and Chinese demand for New Zealand lamb is predicted to dwindle after their pig herd has been re-stocked following the African Swine Fever outbreak. This means that the global supply of sheep meat is set to increase with the prospect of more Aussie and NZ product ending up on the UK and EU markets. HCC’s report also provides insights into changing consumer patterns that will also play a part in the market going forward.