BMPA updates, as they happen, on developing issues in the meat industry.
Contains links to member only content.
1 day ago
As it stands today, the Co2 situation is still in a state of flux. We think that Government intervention has put off the impending shut-down of pork producers and hopefully avoided the need to cull perfectly healthy pigs on farm. But we’re not yet out of the woods.
Over the last week, BMPA has been updating TV and the press daily on the unfolding situation. You can listen to Nick Allen’s discussion with Sarah Montague on The World at One from 10:28 minutes. You can also listen to David Lindars’ interview with John Pienaar on Times Radio Drive from 14:01 minutes.
After a tense few days of impending Co2 shortages, the Government has delivered a short but vital reprieve for the industry. Here are our thoughts on where this leaves the food supply chain and what needs to happen next.
DEFRA gave its support (in principle) to a Parliamentary Question from Rachael Maskell MP on the “merits of introducing a carbon rating system on food labelling to indicate to consumers the carbon footprint of their food purchases”. The response stated that measuring the carbon footprint from food is “complex” and that “no single metric can yet capture the full picture”.
We’ll be watching this carefully. If such a scheme is badly implemented using flawed metrics, it could have needless negative consequences for the industry and be instrumental in steering consumers away from healthy, natural nutritional choices towards novel foods that haven’t yet been proved to be as beneficial to human health.
The House of Lords has voted in favour of an amendment to the Environment Bill that would mean changes could be applied to any single-use materials, and not just plastic.
We read an incredible statistic from PWC who estimate that substituting all current consumption of plastic packaging with alternative materials could almost triple associated carbon emissions. Baroness Bennett likens this kind of substitution to moving from petrol to diesel cars.
DEFRA has published a call for evidence – closing 6 December 2021 – on the impacts of potential animal welfare labelling. The call for evidence asks for “preliminary evidence with regards to how labelling for animal welfare may align with wider labelling reform, including nutrition and eco-labelling”. It notes that there will be a wider review of food labelling as part of the UK Government’s Food Strategy White Paper.
The call for evidence specifically asks for information on how to define the welfare standards that underpin a labelling system; how labelling could be regulated; what the new labels might look like; what products could fall in scope of any labelling reform, and how to monitor and enforce labelling for animal welfare
With Co2 supplies in the UK being cut off virtually overnight after zero warning from suppliers, the full implications for Britain’s food supply chain and its food security are becoming apparent. The gas is essential for the humane slaughter of pigs and poultry. Without it, this will grind to a halt. Nick Allen explained to the Today Programme that “British chicken and British pork will be seriously rare on the shelves”. He said: “Ever since this news broke we’ve been inundated with concerned calls from the industry and we know the retailers are equally concerned.”
He also explained the more serious issue of animal numbers building up on farms which will quickly cause welfare issues and require an emergency plan to deal with the situation that currently doesn’t exist.
Listen to the interview (from 1:18:30)
The Food Standards Agency has announced that, from next year, it will be publishing an annual report on the nation’s food standards. It will include a wide ranging assessment of whether standards are falling or improving.
On Farming Today this morning, we heard from a pig farmer who said that, due to labour shortages in her local abattoir, the number of pigs she’s been able to sell has dropped by 25%. For several weeks, now, the number of pigs on her farm has been rising quickly and she’s now facing the prospect of having to humanely cull pigs on-farm without them ever going to supply Britain’s supermarket shelves. It’s a needless waste.
Nick Allen told Farming Today that BMPA along with “the entire food industry has been shouting and screaming at Government that there’s a problem here”. That problem is both short and long term. We have an immediate skills shortage for which we need an emergency Covid Recovery Visa to get butchers into the country quickly, but which Government keep refusing to address.
Longer term, the industry has already been raising wages and improving the additional support and benefits offered to employees. It’s also been trying to encourage British workers to consider the industry as a long term career choice. This is a harder nut to crack and will take time to come to fruition which is why we need Government to lend a helping hand to get through the current crisis.
Listen to Nick’s interview (from 9:37 minutes)
It’s just been announced that the Billingham and Ince fertiliser plants in the North of England, which supply 60% of the UK’s food grade Co2, will suspend production INDEFINITELY as a result of high natural gas prices. The announcement came from their New York listed owner, CF Industries, and piles even more pressure on the UK meat processing industry which relies on Co2 as one of its inputs. We’re also hearing rumours that a similar situation is developing in Spain.
Other industries that rely heavily on natural gas as a power source are also talking about scaling back production this winter. According to the Financial Times, Government may be called upon to step in and provide emergency help. BMPA is in close contact with Defra to advise on how many days worth of production meat businesses have left with the Co2 they currently have in storage (currently it looks like less than 14 days). We’ll bring you more over the coming days but you can read our press release to get the latest details.
According to a new report by food waste advocacy group WRAP, the meat processing industry’s efforts to improve have been among some of the best in the entire food chain. Last year alone, meat companies were able to cut levels of food waste (which were an already low 1-2 percent of throughput) by another 30%. In fact, the majority of this food waste is ultimately used for renewable energy generation via anaerobic digestion or is turned into fertiliser.
The biggest problem area is still the food wasted after it reaches consumers’ own homes. As a nation we still throw away a colossal 200,000 tonnes or 10% of all the meat we purchase over a year. But, this is something that manufacturers and retailers can help to mitigate through better labelling and smaller pack sizes. BMPA’s members are all signed up to the IGD Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and are committed to achieving a 50% reduction in wasted food.
EFRA has launched a new inquiry into labour shortages in the food supply chain to look at the obvious and not-so-obvious causes, and whether or not these shortages are short term and temporary or longer term and more structural.
The inquiry will focus on the new post-Brexit trading relationship with the EU, including the latest impact of additional red tape and checks at the border since 1 January 2021 on businesses exporting food to the EU. It will also consider the Government’s latest delay to introducing border controls and checks for SPS imports from the EU, including the effect on the competitiveness of British businesses.
Committee Chairman Neil Parish gave a good interview on Farming Today this morning. He said: “yes we need more home grown labour, but if we haven’t got it or they’re not trained to do it or they don’t want to do the work, it will not happen“. He went on to caution: “if we’re not going to import labour, in the long run we may well export our business”.
Listen to the interview (from 9:20 minutes)
Considering the problems the entire food supply chain is experiencing, due to haulage and labour shortages, and despite Government assurances right up until yesterday that the planned import controls would be implemented for goods coming into the UK from Europe, it comes as no surprise today that dates for the implementation of import controls have been delayed.
Industry has foreseen for some time that these delays were needed and have been forced to piece together their supply chain and logistics planning based on what they are hearing from elsewhere in the industry and their own intuition.
Perhaps the more damaging consequence of this latest Government delay is the fact that British companies must now endure nine more months of unequal competition from EU suppliers whose goods are being waved through our borders. It also delays the point at which both the UK and EU are subject to exactly the same requirements and can really begin to work out better solutions to the new trading environment.
The Independent today reports some quite stunning chaos surrounding the new border infrastructure that’s going to be needed in order to implement checks on imports at the end of the year. It cites lack of funding, planning permission that’s still not been given and confused Government advice as the main culprits.
In one example, a port erected buildings only to have to demolish them after Government advice on security requirements changed. Peter Hardwick, BMPA’s Trade Policy Advisor also describes the lack of clear direction from Government on which ports are to be used for which kinds of product which is limiting businesses’ ability to plan supply chain logistics.
Two things recently have got us thinking that our Government may be quite sanguine about the prospect of our domestic food production industry (or put another way, Britain’s food security) being diminished and replaced with a reliance on cheap imports.
First is Ian Wright’s dire warning that the new post-Brexit just-in-time food supply chain is permanently broken if Government don’t act to remove the massive trade barriers that are now in place.
Second is the Daily Telegraph’s Matthew Lynn’s suggestion that the UK should deliberately allow industries like meat processing that rely on migrant workers to take jobs that UK workers are not keen to do, to shrink and be replaced by reliance on imported goods.
Nick Allen was interviewed about this and you can read his comments in this Trans.info article.
Sir Greg Knight has asked the Government what plans it has to require labelling of meat to show animals slaughtered without prior stunning; and if it will make an assessment of the potential merits of introducing more detailed food labelling to promote animal welfare, including the method of slaughter. In response the Defra Minister, Victoria Prentis, said that there are currently no regulations that require the labelling of meat with the method of slaughter”.
She went on to announce that the Government “will shortly launch a call for evidence to assess the impacts of different types of labelling reforms for animal welfare, including method of slaughter. This will feed into the Government’s wider work on food labelling to ensure that consumers can have confidence in the food they buy and facilitate the trade of quality British food at home and abroad.”
Proving that it’s the ‘Essential Ingredient’ for Britain’s top meat processing companies, the British Meat Processors Association was awarded Best Trade Organisation at the Meat Management industry awards last night.
Under the leadership of Nick Allen, the association has undergone a major evolution to become the central voice of the British meat industry. Since he came on board as CEO, he has built a team that is completely immersed in the technical, operational and political issues affecting the industry today.
With yet another deadline for imposing checks on goods coming into or going out of the UK being kicked down the road by Government, it’s easy to forget that every one of these dates represents a commercial and financial reality for British companies.
Speaking to The Independent, BMPA’s Peter Hardwick explains: “the cost for British companies delivering goods to the EU has doubled and it takes twice as long as it did before Brexit.” Currently it’s hurting us more than it’s hurting EU companies. Peter goes on to say: “Introducing these checks may not be terminal for EU businesses but they may choose not to trade with the UK. That would put even further pressure on food supplies and empty shelves.”
He also points out that, by delaying introducing checks on EU goods coming into the UK, Government is effectively removing a leverage point for UK negotiations on longer term solutions to trade.
The Global Meat Alliance has put together a short audio overview of the five big things affecting the global meat industry for August and September. They include UN FSS pre-summit take-outs, what’s expected for COP26 and the IPCC’s ‘code red for humanity’ call that went out recently.
You can also access the Global Meat Alliance Trelllo Board for more media and information resources here.
Defra has updated its guidance on pre-notification times, confirming that the minimum 4 hour pre-notification can be applied without pre-approval of the Border Control Post of entry up until 1 Jan 2022. From that date operators must seek agreement with the BCP of entry, or the standard 24 hour minimum pre-notification will apply.
DEFRA has also included on its microsite videos and presentations from previous webinars (Products of Animal Origin, Animal By-Products and Composite Products). They will be adding guidance and information documents to this site regularly, therefore, please do save the link. You’ll need a Dropbox login to access the material.
A word of warning to any firms who ship into France. We’re hearing reports of border control officials enforcing the new rules to the absolute letter. The latest example is the requirement to present a physical copy of a replacement Export Health Certificate that had to be cancelled due to a mistake in the original.
The replacement certificate must be signed by the same vet (although this is a UK rule, not a French one) then couriered to the BCP before the consignment can be released. The need for it to be a physical copy is being strictly enforced because, in the past, assurances that the physical copy will follow on from the scanned copy have not been followed through.
According to a scathing Politics Home article Labour’s Emily Thornberry has said the figures from a new Food and Drink Federation report “blow apart the two myths ministers have been spinning for months”. She pulled no punches by adding: “First, they show these are not temporary teething problems; they are the direct consequence of the holes in Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal; and second, they show the growth in our food exports around the world will never come close to making up for our losses with Europe.”
Leo Varadkar said in a radio interview yesterday that covid has been masking Brexit related trade problems that have seen a ‘disastrous’ fall in EU sales according to the FDF report.
Despite the UK Government announcing an indefinite extension to the Grace Period for trade with Northern Ireland, we should also take heed of the British Veterinary Association’s warning of a persistent chronic lack of vets. In a statement to The Daily Mail they cited a one third drop in the number of EU vets registering for work in the UK from 2019 levels.
While the pressure is off the 1 October deadline, our negotiators still face the same issues as they did before, for which compromise will be needed all round.
A new report out today from Grant Thornton catalogues the scale and cause of the UK’s chronic food industry labour shortage. The increasing prevalence of empty supermarket shelves exposes a major flaw in the Government’s handling of the ongoing labour crisis.
What many in the food industry are wondering is why ballet dancers and artists are on the Government’s official list of occupations the country is short of when butchers and HGV drivers, who could instantly alleviate these national food shortages, are not.
Regular readers will know we’ve been vocal about this for a long time. We now need Government to stop standing back and start managing the crisis. We need both rapid short term action (temporary relaxation of immigration rules) as well as longer term support to help attract British workers into industries that they’ve traditionally not considered.
Temporary changes to the Right to Work Checks that employers are required to perform, which include allowing video calls and emailed ID documents, have now been extended to 5 April 2022. This follows positive feedback from companies on these remote checks.
The intention is to eventually introduce a new digital solution to include many who are unable to use the Home Office online checking service, including UK and Irish citizens. This will enable checks to continue to be conducted remotely but with enhanced security.
A recent poll conducted by PoliticsHome, one of the most influential news sources for British politicians, reveals that 47% of people support relaxing immigration rules to alleviate the chronic driver shortage currently crippling British supply chains. Only 21% of people disagree. An even stronger 57%/11% agree/disagree with lorry drivers being added to the Shortage Occupation List.
We wonder if Government may be underestimating people’s awareness and understanding of the issue and their willingness to accept pragmatic solutions. Either way, there’s a growing chorus of companies, politicians and now, the general public calling on Government to stop standing back and start actively managing the labour crisis.
Nick Allen talks on BBC’s PM Programme about labour shortages in the meat industry that are affecting supplies to supermarkets right now, and will see shortages of Christmas products later in the year.
Nick explains that the problem down to immigration policy decisions that our politicians have made since Brexit over which they now have complete control. He also anticipates that, as a result, higher food prices in the UK will be a certainty and become part of the ‘new normal’.
Listen from 18.18 minutes
We were listening to last night’s episode of The Archers and heard our name dropped by Vince Casey, Ambridge’s resident abattoir owner. He’d been to a BMPA ‘do’ at Grey Gables. Nice to see he’s making the most of his membership of the UK’s leading meat industry trade association.
The Advertising Standards Authority has dismissed all complaints brought against the AHDB ‘We Eat Balanced’ campaign from various vegan groups. It ruled that none of the adverts was misleading, saying: “The ads did not state that consumers could not obtain a balanced and healthy diet unless they ate meat or dairy,” adding that it was “factually accurate to state that vitamin B12 was not naturally present in a vegan diet”.
The ASA’s ruling went on to say that: “We referred to the NHS advice on vegetarian and vegan diets, which stated that vitamin B12 was only found naturally in foods from animal sources, and that because sources of vitamin B12 for vegans were limited, supplements or fortified foods might be needed”.
In an interview given to The Independent, Nick Allen, CEO of The British Meat Processors Association warned that “Nando’s is the tip of the iceberg. I think we’re going to see more and more [closures]. Some people are still trying to open up their restaurants – but they’re struggling to get staff and struggling for deliveries.”
He also explained that: “The supply problems are coming from the underlying labour problems happening since Brexit… It’s certainly Brexit-related, but it’s also the immigration decisions our politicians are making since Brexit.”
There’s a fascinating report out today from the Tony Blair Institute that examines the behaviour changes that will be required to meet net zero by 2050. It considers the attitudinal, technological, political and economic angles at play that will dictate how successful we’ll be at reaching what the Climate Change Committee has termed a ‘balanced pathway’ to net zero.
The report contains illustrations from the BEIS Public Attitudes Tracker that shed a whole new statistical light on what people think versus what they’re actually prepared to do, as well as who they think is ultimately responsible for taking action. The report provides a big picture overview of the whole environmental debate and manages to cut through the morass of opinion and speculation currently littering the media. Well worth dipping into as a weekend read.
The EU has voted to delay when exporters must start to use the new Export Health Certificates (EHCs) for goods moved to Northern Ireland or the UE from 21 August this year until 15 January 2022.
The EU’s proposal will mean that current EHCs signed before 15 January 2022 can be used until 15 March 2022 for goods en route to the EU. Changes to the rules for the certification of composite products which took effect in April 2021 continue to apply.
The Government is still reviewing options for the use of current and new Animal Health Regulation certificates that have already been made available and will provide updates on this shortly.
The Government has released a presentation for businesses which explains the process of setting up and running the new Daily Contact Testing scheme, which replaces the requirement for self isolation if a worker is notified. It’s a clear, straight forward presentation with useful pictures and diagrams to make setting up the new scheme as easy as possible.
Defra recently held three webinars to help businesses with the new requirements for importing products of animal origin including composite and animal by-products from the European Union due to come in from October this year. We’ve collated all the recordings and slide presentations along with Defra’s answers to questions posed by attendees including an Export Health Certificate pack.
Staff and skills shortages continue to hamper food production, and many meat companies are already around six weeks behind their Christmas production schedules. It now looks inevitable that there will be a shortage of the more complicated lines like pigs in blankets and gammon roasts.
Adding to the pressure of staff shortages, which are already reaching 15% and above, is the new problem of large retailers paying a sign-on bonus of between £2000 and £5000 per person to poach drivers from their own suppliers. This means that manufacturers are now struggling to move finished goods to retail distribution centres and make deliveries of goods and ingredients to manufacturing sites.
To add insult to injury, those same retailers are then charging a penalty to their suppliers for failure to deliver. This is the definition of a vicious circle and the problem will continue to spiral until something changes. That ‘something’ must be an injection of new workers – not in two or three month’s time, but now – which the Government has in its power to bring about by temporarily relaxing visa requirements for migrant workers.
We heard Professor Bill Collins of Reading University speaking on BBC’s Farming Today this week about the role of methane. He’s one of the lead authors of this week’s IPCC report on climate change and also of the Global Methane Assessment (GMA) Report. While both reports single out methane as being the greenhouse gas that should be tackled immediately (even before carbon dioxide), neither calls for the elimination of livestock.
The GMA report takes the view that not all sustainable diets are healthy and not all healthy diets are sustainable. The key is to reduce meat consumption where it’s above recommended intake, reduce food waste and ensure that the meat we do eat is produced using sustainable methods including better manure management and the latest feed, breeding and productivity innovations.
Professor Liam Sinclair of Harper Adams University described how methane reduction is now embedded in the courses the university offers and provides an evidence-based approach that demonstrates why methane emissions associated with British milk, for example, are just 40% of the world average.
Listen to the interviews (from 4:25 minutes)