BMPA updates, as they happen, on developing issues in the meat industry.
Contains links to member only content.
22 hrs ago
Back when the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol were being negotiated, we were promised that there would be no border down the Irish Sea and that trade with customers in Northern Ireland would attract no extra costs.
Fast forward to today and it would seem that government is about to row back on the promise of no additional costs. Until now, the costs associated with preparing the certification needed to send goods to Northern Ireland have been covered by the Movement Assistance Scheme and paid for out of the public purse. However, that is about to end on 31 December this year, which means that from January 2024, meat companies will be on the hook for those costs; some to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.
Peter Hardwick, BMPA’s Trade Policy Advisor has been vocal on this subject at a recent House of Lords Committee and BMPA will be pressing the Government on how they propose to deal with these extra costs to trade after the current scheme ends.
1 day ago
Following the publication of FDF’s H1 Trade Snapshot, Nan Jones considers the reasons behind the 23% decline in volumes of beef and pork exported compared to the same period in 2022. In part it’s down to a rise in the price of UK cattle which has been exacerbated by added red tape to send goods to the EU, making UK product more expensive.
But the figures serve to highlight an issue that’s been brewing ever since we left the EU but that’s only now being acknowledged by politicians and the media. Nan explains: “what we need is for the government to take a pragmatic approach and look at an SPS alignment with the EU. This would have two main benefits. It would resolve our trade friction with the EU but also get rid of all the problems around the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
1 day ago
While Kier Starmer’s comments to a conference audience in Canada this week have been seized upon as ‘proof’ he wants back into the EU single market and customs union, the underlying reality is different but makes a lot of sense to UK businesses.
Something the press and politicians have consistently failed to acknowledge is that, if we want sell goods to the EU, we have no choice but to comply with their rules and standards. In other words, we’ve been “aligning” and being “rule takers” all along since we left the EU. Of course the difference between now and pre-Brexit is that British companies must now expend much more time and money on additional red tape and customs checks to prove that we’re complying with their rules and standards, rendering us less competitive.
A new video from the Financial Times explores the pros and cons of introducing a meat tax to curb consumption. It includes numerous voices including Phil Stocker, Chief Executive of the National Sheep Association and explores issues surrounding cost of living, nutrition and the unpredictable dangers of substitution.
One thing we’d add to this debate is the need for an accurate, universally agreed method of measuring the true carbon footprint of meat vs non-meat foods (for example GWP*). If we’re to base policy and public advice on a firm scientific foundation, it must take into account both sides of the carbon balance sheet including emissions as well as carbon sequestration and livestock’s role in maintaining biodiversity.
A new campaign #ThePowerOfYou has just been launched by Meat Business Women to encourage women to recognise the contribution they can make to the meat industry. As well as seeking to make the sector more inclusive, it highlights the diverse career paths and options that are open to women at all levels and stages of their careers. It also encourages those already on the ladder to offer a helping hand to new entrants who are just starting out, through an industry-wide mentoring programme.
It will soon be easier for Brazilian and New Zealand exporters to send beef to Great Britain than it will for British meat companies to send beef to Northern Ireland. The combined effect of introducing both the Border Target Operating Model and the Windsor Framework will make it more onerous and more expensive (to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds per year for just one company) for British firms to do business in our own domestic market.
Not only that, but it could also force UK companies to pull some of their production sites out of Northern Ireland and re-locate to the mainland because the new rules will restrict how they’re able to move goods between the two.
This and other serious unintended consequences that are set to disadvantage British meat companies is explained succinctly and eloquently, with examples, by BMPA’s Trade Policy Advisor Peter Hardwick who gave evidence this week to the House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. It’s a sobering warning that we hope will be heard and acted upon by Government while they still have time to put it right. Our solution: continue, if only on a temporary basis, with SPS alignment with the EU while a better solution is developed that’s the result of a deeper more comprehensive consultation with the companies and industries that will have to make it work.
Following concerns voiced by industry MPs have been debating the new Border Target Operating Model in Parliament. The debate was led by Dover MP Natalie Elphick, whose major concern is a breakdown in the UK’s biosecurity as a result of illegal meat getting through customs. She floated an interesting suggestion to combat the “cross-governmental working, which in layman’s terms, means that no one person is in charge and the buck does not stop anywhere.”
She makes the case for a “Department for the border to draw together all the border-related functions, as many other countries do, including America and Australia. It would be a single window under a single Department responsible for order at the border.” This would cover everything from customs to trade, biosecurity and visa entry.
Separately, we saw reported in Farmers Weekly that Defra has given the assurance that the BTOM “will retain the mechanisms recognised and applied across the world as the key building blocks for sanitary and phytosanitary controls”, which may allay some of the industry’s concerns.
This week the Government published the new risk categories for imports of animal and plant products for countries outside of the EU which set out the controls that will apply to these goods when they’re exported to Great Britain from 30 April 2024.
But questions are starting to be asked about how the risk assessments have been done and if the emerging disparity in import checks between the UK and EU will impact our ability to export to our nearest and biggest market. Will it provoke them to ask for additional checks on our exported goods and introduce extra friction and cost into our food supply chain?
We explore the issues in more detail in our latest article, and BMPA’s trade expert, Peter Hardwick will be giving evidence at the upcoming House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland evidence session next Wednesday 13th September, when he will be explaining these concerns and more.
Ruminant Health & Welfare, a network of organisations involved in the livestock industry, is preparing to launch its latest five year Sheep Welfare Strategy that will run to 2028. Their mission is to facilitate collaboration across the industry to drive innovation and eradicate cattle and sheep diseases.
Good animal health and welfare is critical on a number of fronts for the British meat and livestock industry. It maintains our hard-won reputation for some of the highest standards on the planet, which in turn fosters better, more responsible farming methods and medicine use, and creates better working conditions for those involved in raising and handling animals.
Prior to the strategy’s launch at the NSA Conference in October, Ruminant Health & Welfare are looking to enlist support from companies up and down the sheep supply chain. We’ll be sharing the draft strategy with BMPA’s Beef and Sheep Committee, but any interested parties can contact the group direct via their website.
Many people in the meat industry have been saddened this week to learn of the death of Mark Adams, one of the industry’s greatest champions.
At the age of five, Mark was given his first butchers’ apron and inducted into the family business, Geo Adams & Sons. Since then, he has been immersed in the business of livestock handling and butchery.
Mark had a long association with the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers (now BMPA), representing the organisation in Brussels during his early career and later serving as President. He did a great deal of work on behalf of the industry, generously giving his time to mentor others coming up behind him, and has helped develop many careers. Those that knew him will have many fond memories. He was a true son of the trade who will be sadly missed, and our sincerest condolences go out to his family and all those close to him.
A new report out this week suggests that demand for halal meat and food products is set to grow over the coming years due to an increasingly affluent and growing Muslim middle-class. It quotes figures from Fortune Business that predict the global market will grow from $2.09 trillion in 2021 to $3.27 trillion by 2028. It also cites the pattern of immigration and population growth around the world, which will see the UK Muslim population increase from four million today to 13 million by 2050.
It’s an interesting take on how the authors see demand shifting and the business opportunities that will open up to the meat industry as a result.
Due to a quirk of timing which will see import controls postponed for EU exporters to the UK at the same time as new controls are introduced for British companies sending pre-packaged goods to Northern Ireland, the government’s original picture of frictionless trade has been turned on its head.
This has come about because the new Windsor Framework will launch on 1 October and require British companies to use special ‘Not for EU’ labelling along with a more cumbersome system for certification and checking goods (we’ve written about why this is particularly true for the meat industry here). Given that these kinds of checks will continue to be completely waived for goods coming from the EU into the UK, it will soon be harder to move products around within the United Kingdom that it will be to bring goods over from Europe.
The much anticipated Border Target Operating Model has finally been published by the Cabinet Office this week along with a timetable for its implementation, starting on 31 January 2024 and rolling out to 31 October 2024. To accompany this, Defra are running sector specific online training sessions to prepare traders for the new SPS import controls. They include webinars on meat and poultry (14 Sept), composite products (15 Sept) and animal by-products (18 Sept). There’s also a session dedicated to what it means for exports from Northern Ireland (21 Sept).
They’ve also published the new risk categories for imports of animal and plant products for countries outside of the EU which set out the controls that will apply to these goods when they’re exported to Great Britain from 30 April 2024. That’s when we move away from the inherited EU model to the new targeted, risk-based Target Operating Model. It will be a material change and should reduce the cost and time to bring goods into the country. BMPA’s Technical Policy Manager, Nan Jones has posted an explanatory note in the Members’ Portal.
We’ve been expecting a delay in the implementation of the Border Target Operating Model, but simply shifting the deadline to January doesn’t address the more serious, underlying issue, which is that when we left the EU we were promised frictionless trade with Europe, but the current reality falls far short of that.
When the Target Operating Model is eventually implemented, it will add another level of complication, delay and extra cost to our trade with our nearest and biggest trading partner, who we rely on for a large proportion of our food supply. Yes, it will level the playing field as the same barriers to trade are finally applied to imports as well as exports, but it will make the food that we need to import more expensive. It will also discourage some EU exporters from supplying into the UK market, preferring instead to sell to markets with fewer trade barriers.
In order to provide enough meat to British customers, our meat producers rely on the ability to export parts of the animal for which there is no market here in the UK. We also need to import products that we don’t produce enough of here. We need our nearest, most lucrative export market to make the meat supply chain work properly.
What’s the solution?
As we’ve consistently maintained, there is a simple, pragmatic solution that would restore our two-way trade in food to the efficient, cost-effective system it was before, but without the need to re-join the EU. That solution is a Common Veterinary Agreement, which would simply formalise the UK’s adherence to the food standards that it already follows to trade with the EU.
Following on from our update last week which considered how consumers are developing a growing skepticism about ultra-processed foods, BMPA’s Sustainability Manager Lucas Daglish looks at the popular NOVA system for classifying these foods in his latest article. He also considers the implications for meat products.
He contends that any system that puts seasoned ground beef that’s been shaped into a patty into the same category as donuts and Doritos contains some fundamental flaws that need addressing. He says: “clearly the level of processing doesn’t necessarily correlate with the nutritional value of products”.
“Once it’s in your blood, it’s a job for life. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else”. Familiar words from one of Smithfield Market’s many workers captured by Guardian writer Tom Ambrose in his picture essay charting the past, present and future of the historic London meat market.
There’s a real sense of nostalgia tinged with sadness throughout the piece as Ambrose records the thoughts of butchers, porters, security staff and others on the impending closure of the market and the move to its new home at Dagenham Dock. Anyone connected to the meat industry will enjoy reading this one.
This week the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) published its decision on George Eustice’s application to start an independent consultancy that will provide strategic counsel to businesses and investors involved in agritech, agri-food, waste management and the water sector.
ACoBA judged that there is an inherent risk that Mr Eustice could offer clients “unfair access to government” and therefore applied some strict time and activity conditions to his new business including a ban on lobbying government and civil servants. ACoBA’s letter provides an interesting insight into the checks and balances applied when MPs leave office.
This September 20-21 will see industry players and experts from across the UK and EU livestock supply chain descend on London. The Livestock Supply Chain Connect event is an opportunity to get together with key players from government, food production, farming, technology, finance, retail and food service. The aim is to facilitate action on sustainability, rising costs, traceability, welfare and efficiency.
Speakers and sessions will focus on macro trends impacting the industry, consumer insights into changing behaviours, setting scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions targets and animal welfare. BMPA’s Sustainability Manager, Lucas Daglish will be speaking at one of the sessions on the benefits and pitfalls of eco and animal welfare labelling. It’s a packed programme and early bird discount ends tonight (18 August) at midnight.
Flint Global’s influential commentator on trade and Brexit matters, Sam Lowe, writes a weekly “trade-nerd newsletter” (his words) which we always find satisfyingly detailed in its analysis. Last week he took a look at what a future Labour government’s trade policy might look like.
He focuses largely on Nick Thomas-Symonds’ comment to the Guardian about a ‘worker-centric trade policy’ but his expectations surrounding Labour’s stance on temporary labour mobility and trade agreements caught our eye, specifically the potential for a deeper veterinary agreement to remove agrifood checks.
Along with calling for a pragmatic immigration policy, we’ve long advocated for a Swiss-style system of ‘autonomous adaptation’ which allows closer alignment through a sovereign parliamentary procedure. And now, more than at any other time, reducing rather than creating trade friction would go a long way to tackling food inflation. Without such extra costs to UK food producers (labour and bureaucracy), food would simply be more affordable.
Following calls from the boss of Sainsbury’s last week for a more pragmatic immigration policy to support UK companies, a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development shows that UK employers are increasingly having to resort to bidding wars to retain staff.
Despite the unemployment rate ticking up slightly and job vacancies falling, this latest research seems to suggest that, in certain sectors, the labour market still remains tight. This is borne out by the fact that there are still over 1 million job vacancies waiting to be filled, which points to a mis-match between jobs available and workers with the right skills in the right place.
Meat processors are well aware of this issue, which is why they’ve been spending record amounts to source those skills from overseas. All of this fuels inflation and, in our case, puts further pressure on food prices as the cost to produce ratchets higher. The CIPD have some interesting insights in their latest Labour Market Outlook.
The debate surrounding Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs) is hotting up, with the Chief Executive of Beyond Meat admitting in a recent shareholder briefing that the recent 30.5% drop in sales in the last quarter is partly due to a ‘change in perception’ amongst consumers that such foods are overly processed and unhealthy. He blames ‘interest groups who have succeeded in seeding doubt and fear around the ingredients and process used to create our and other plant-based meats’.
There’s no doubt that there are many foods (both meat and plant based) that are clearly ultra processed. But this does raise the question of whether or not the current classification system is fit for purpose, and provides an accurate guide for consumers. A new study in Food Quality and Preference journal concludes that people think the less processed the food, the healthier it is and that the NOVA classification of foods broadly reflects this perception.
But the NOVA system clearly has some flaws that need ironing out if it’s to be of any use to consumers. Their ‘Ultra Processed’ category includes carbonated soft drinks, sweet, fatty or salty packaged snacks, confectionery, mass produced packaged breads, biscuits and….beef burgers. As we know, these are generally minced beef plus less than 1% seasoning shaped into a patty. Apparently it’s the shaping that makes it ultra processed. Lucas Daglish will be tackling this issue in the August issue of Meat Management.
Apart from revealing some interesting details about his back-story which some members might not be aware of, BMPA’s Sustainability Manager, Lucas Daglish offers some wide-ranging insights in his podcast with Glen Burrows of the C.L.E.A.R. Campaign for accurate food labelling.
They cover methods of production, the importance of gathering on-farm primary data for traceability (which New Zealand and Ireland are doing very well) and the complexity surrounding eco labelling. They also discuss the merits of GWP* vs GWP100 for accurate carbon measurements and explain the issue we have with the plethora of carbon measurement tools currently on the market.
Back in 2018, a group of scientists from Oxford, Reading and Wellington Universities published a research paper calling into question the prevailing methods used to measure the global warming potential of livestock methane emissions. They contended that the GWP 100 method of calculating the ‘CO2 Equivalent’ of methane is flawed because it misrepresents it’s impact on global temperature. Essentially, it mis-represents the contribution of livestock to global warming.
BMPA has been working with government and industry to get this recognised and ensure that any method of calculating environmental impact that is eventually adopted by legislators accurately reflects reality. In his latest article Lucas Daglish, BMPA’s Sustainability Manager, takes a look at where this work is up to and what should happen next.
The Women In Meat Industry Awards are designed to recognise the contribution that women make to the meat sector. The awards are driven by nominations and votes from across the meat industry and celebrate the inspirational women who work across in the sector from processing and retail through to craft butchery and education. Voting closes 29 August.
With fewer than 10 weeks to go before the latest deadline for introducing customs checks on food coming into the UK, it looks as though the 31 October deadline is to be pushed back for a fifth time, primarily because the extra bureaucracy would add to food price inflation and most likely discourage many of our EU suppliers from continuing to send goods to the UK.
This is a true double-edged sword. On the one hand, food supplies to UK consumers aren’t disrupted, and extra costs, either from the additional trade barriers or from a supply squeeze, can be avoided. On the other hand, it perpetuates an un-level playing field for UK food producers who have been subject to extra post-Brexit expenses and barriers since January 2021. It’s also causing a high degree of exasperation at UK ports and border control posts which have been gearing-up for this change with new staff and infrastructure, but cannot now start to recoup those costs, and instead must put their new operations on ice.
It should be noted that, at the time of writing, there’s been speculation in the press about this latest delay, but no official communiqué from Government to confirm it, only anonymous briefings to the Financial Times. We’ll keep you posted.
Food inflation has been high on the news agenda this week, with the Government seemingly ready to announce a fifth delay to implementing border checks on imported food to avoid further exacerbating the problem. But there’s something else the Government could do to ease the pressure on rising food prices. It could allow people into the country to fill gaps in the workforce that can’t be filled with UK workers.
While they’ve no control over input costs like commodity prices and energy, the UK Government now has an immigration system over which it can exercise full control. The Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s highlighted this issue earlier in the week. He pointed out that the UK food supply chain is full of these gaps in the workforce which is causing unusually high wage price inflation as too many companies are forced to compete for too few available workers. You can read Nick Allen’s take on how this is affecting the meat industry in our latest press release.
Defra has published a suite of new guidance on the Windsor Framework including How the scheme will work, registering and sealing consignments and groupage and mixed loads.
We’ve been attending regular meetings of the GB/NI Forum to raise issues on behalf of the meat industry. Recently Defra came back to us with responses to some of the common questions raised, which dig into specific details from where on the pack the ‘Not for EU’ label should be placed through to the process for obtaining signatures on the General Certificate.
Several questions have been raised recently about the upcoming change in EU regulation on nitrites and nitrates in meat products which will come into force this September 2023 with a 24 month lead-in to September 2025. Currently there are no changes to the maximum amount of ingoing nitrite and nitrate. However, the EU has included residual levels. While we can’t see any major issue in achieving these, we’d advise checking the specifications for particular products you may have in your range.
BMPA’s Technical Operations Director, David Lindars will be discussing the changes for 2025 with the UK’s regulator the Food Standards Agency over the coming month. Assuming the new EU regulations are to be adopted here, we want to ensure that any new UK rules are equivalent and don’t go further, or deviate from those in the EU.
We’ve put a comprehensive note in the Members’ Portal including product tables and a document that highlights the proposed changes that might happen if the EU implements a reduction plan.
A new report on meat consumption published yesterday afternoon has generated more questions than answers on first inspection. We’re consulting with independent scientific advisors who are conducting an in-depth review of the assumptions and findings, especially the assertion that soil carbon storage and sequestration only have a ‘modest impact’ on livestock’s overall footprint.
We’ve also asked our scientific advisors to consider how this has been reported in the media, particularly the comparison with car emissions and the references to how much carbon dioxide different types of diets produce per person. As has been demonstrated by another team of Oxford scientists, conflating methane (produced by ruminants) and carbon dioxide (from burning fossil fuels) is misleading and a less accurate measure of environmental impact.
Our position has not changed. We know that all human activity and consumption should eventually be scrutinised and measured so consumers can get an accurate picture of their ‘environmental balance sheet’. But that measure must be accurate and take into account both the negatives and the positives, for example methane emissions vs carbon sequestration in grass-fed production systems like the UK’s. We’ll report back with a fuller assessment soon.
Last week BMPA held a one hour webinar to focus on what T-Level placements can offer, how to get involved and what other support is available. We’ve posted a full recording of the webinar plus slides on the Members’ Portal.
Defra’s decision to not go ahead with a consultation on mandatory animal welfare labelling has disappointed some groups. On the surface, it instinctively feels like a backward step; why wouldn’t the government want to be able to give consumers more information about the food they buy?
But delve a little deeper and it becomes clear why Defra have chosen to wheel this particular project back into the hangar to adapt it to be more fit for purpose. In an interview with Radio 4’s Farming Today, Nick Allen explained that, after initial consultation with industry, it emerged that the complexity involved in pig and poultry production presents a far greater challenge than, for example, egg production and throws up many more considerations than had been initially anticipated.
Such diversity in methods of production presents a real problem for officials seeking to formulate a standardised set of metrics and parameters and an even bigger challenge to reduce that to a simplified on-pack label.
Listen (from 5:42 Minutes)
After a five year hiatus the World Meat Congress is back. But, according to the organisers, the number of representatives from the British meat industry currently registered is down on previous years.
A lot has changed in the last five years and new players in the market are emerging. The World Meat Congress is an opportunity for British companies to connect with new contacts, find new business opportunities and hear international experts share their knowledge on the latest trends and developments. Trade delegations from China and the Americas will be in attendance and ready to talk.
It’s held in Maastricht on 11 and 12 October, the day after ANUGA in Cologne and only an hour’s drive away. Register before 1 August for your early bird discount.
Food Manufacture’s William Dodds recently met with BMPA’s Nick Allen and Nan Jones for a wide-ranging discussion on the British meat industry. They particularly focused on the persistent difficulty in recruiting British workers, identifying that there’s a real lack of understanding of the sheer range of jobs available.
As the industry has evolved and adopted the latest technology and automation, the skills needed have diversified. A 21st century meat plant now need everything from skilled butchers through to data analysts, engineers and multi-lingual international trade experts. Crucially none of these roles is defined by gender. Rather, we’re looking for people with particular attributes, skills or knowledge to work with us.
Nick and Nan discussed how the lack of awareness of the modern meat industry could be remedied. They also explained what Government could be doing to create the right conditions for companies to continue their push towards automation and also ensure a level playing field for assessing meat’s environmental credentials.
The Windsor Framework, which is supposed to remove the trade barrier down the Irish Sea, could potentially become un-usable by British firms. What’s emerging is an un-intended consequence of the requirement for special labelling indicating goods are ‘Not for EU’.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that, rather than using the labelling system, retailers (and possibly food service) will instead choose to have all deliveries go through the red lane for full customs checks. This is because they want to retain the flexibility to move those goods on into the Republic of Ireland if demand is flat in the north.
If this happens, full checks and export health certificates will be needed and the Windsor Framework will be rendered un-usable by meat companies. There’s also a question over what compensation traders will get for the extra cost to do business. While the extra costs to ship retail packaged goods are covered by the Movement Assistance Scheme, wholesale carcasses and meat products are not. BMPA is currently pressing the Government for answers ahead of the looming 1 October deadline.
“Just two of our members have committed a total of £10 million in the last 18 months to bring in the staff they need from abroad because suitable UK candidates are simply not available.” That’s the worrying warning call sounded by Nick Allen in our latest press release which explains that each new recruit is now costing between £10,000 and sometimes up to £15,000 to bring on board through a combination of fixed costs (for visas etc.) and variable costs (for relocation).
NEWS FLASH FRIDAY 14 JULY: The government has made this situation a whole lot worse by announcing yesterday some hefty increases to overseas worker visas and the Immigration Health Surcharge. We’ve just put out a new press release today that examines this decision and how it will fuel food price inflation.