BMPA updates, as they happen, on developing issues in the meat industry.
Contains links to member only content.
1 day ago
“The food security landscape has changed significantly” according to Defra’s latest UK Food Security Report. It considers the forces currently acting on UK supply chains, particularly from labour shortages, new trade deals and the shake-up of the farming sector. It acknowledges that while relying on food imports to spread our risk, it also exposes the UK to logistical, political and production-related disruption.
On the proposed changes to our farming system, Sustain’s head of farming Vicki Hird recently wrote: “We should let nature sing everywhere and be investing in the new agroecological farming and supply chains needed to support this transition. We definitely should not be pushing farmers out of business and importing more to replace their food if we inappropriately re-wild good farmland here”. We’d agree.
Footprint have published a good overview of the Government report and conclude that it must be acted on now to preserve our future food security, not just used as a three hundred page doorstop until the next report is due in 2024.
1 day ago
A new World Health Organisation factsheet, “Plant-based diets and their impact on health, sustainability and the environment”, explains that some plant-based meat and dairy substitutes may not be better for people’s health.
WHO representative, Dr Wickramasinghe cautions: “Major blind spots remain when it comes to the nutritional composition of these products, and how they contribute to dietary quality and diversity in the WHO European Region. This lack of information prevents governments from forming effective policy guidance, with potential consequences for population health.”
The bottom line is that any decisions, whether by consumers or governments must be based on more nuanced, data-driven information so we don’t inadvertently compromise public health. This Daily Mail article also explores the danger that (as they put it) “new vegans can end up bingeing on junk food”.
1 day ago
Dean Holroyd, Sustainability and Technical Director at ABP explained to Farming Today this morning the principles and practice behind ABP’s innovative demonstration farm in Shropshire. He said: “what we’re about is trying to identify which are the most efficient animals” both environmentally and economically. ABP are conducting research into feed supplements, selective breeding programmes to rear animals that produce less gas and even methane reducing collars for cows.
Early results are encouraging, showing around a 40% reduction in methane output from cows on the demonstration farm versus that of average UK cows. To accelerate progress, ABP welcomes farmers who are part of their supply chain to the farm so they can learn first-hand about the innovative technology and best practices being trialled.
Listen from 20 seconds
Marks & Spencer’s Managing Director, Stuart Machin along with 14 other industry heavy hitters including Bakkavor and Greencore have written to Boris Johnson offering suggestions for long term solutions to post-Brexit trade barriers with Northern Ireland and the EU. Recent meat industry figures show that trade with our nearest and biggest market, the EU, has dropped around 30% since before the pandemic.
Stuart Machin is looking more broadly at the issues threatening the British food industry as a whole and suggests both technology solutions to facilitate trade along with more flexible immigration protocols to help solve the rapidly worsening labour crisis in the nation’s largest private sector employer.
His comments should ring alarm bells across the whole food and farming sector and serve as a warning of what the retailers might do if the problems are not addressed. He says: “The pressures facing UK food and farming are real. We cannot let the period of transition be an excuse for the retail sector to divert supply abroad and unravel a farming sector that delivers high standards of quality, welfare, and innovation, and – by default – increases our reliance on imports.”
Coming soon is the annual opportunity for employers, workers, students and job agencies to come together to help ‘Build the Future’ of the British workforce. Given that the landscape for jobs has changed so much over the last two years, this year’s discussions will be very different from previous years with new challenges and new opportunities.
We’d encourage anyone who’s thinking of getting involved in apprenticeships to check out what this week has to offer.
The deadline for switching to the new versions of the EHCs which comply with the EU’s new Animal Health Regulations is tomorrow, 15 January. The latest guidance published on the Government’s Trader Showcase Dropbox confirms that any in-progress exports using the old EHCs will still be valid for entry into the EU as long as the EHC is signed before 11.59 pm on 14 January 2022, and the consignment arrives at the point of entry in the EU by 15 March 2022.
While formally, the rules come into effect from 11.59 pm on 14 January the EU has asked Member States to show flexibility in accepting old EHCs until the end of April 2022. However, they are not bound to do so and it is vital that you check with your Border Control Post as to the approach they are taking.
It’s worth noting that some EHCs have undergone further updates (listed in Defra’s latest communication) very recently which may result in disruptions and issues over this weekend.
After years of Official Veterinarians (OVs) in abattoirs being supplied by private contractors, the Food Standards Agency has taken the first step to bring the provision of OV resources in-house by employing a frontline veterinary workforce directly and gradually decreasing the number that are contracted through their current service delivery partner, Eville & Jones. FSA plans to directly employ up to 25% of OVs by April 2023, with the potential to increase this further to up to 50% over the following 3 –4 years.
We can see that this evolution will be a positive for the industry and provide more consistency across operations. It will also bring the UK more into line with other European countries which, for many years, have had Government employees performing meat hygiene and veterinary inspections.
Revised details of the Slaughter Incentive Payment Scheme (SIPS) and the Private Storage Aid (PSA) scheme have just been published on the Gov.uk website. Both schemes will run until 31 March and cover additional pigs over an above normal kill numbers that have been slaughtered on an extra shift or using overtime, and are destined only for either export or PSA.
It’s worth noting that the SIPS will only cover the first 100,000 pigs slaughtered, after which support is no longer available, however companies will only be able to submit a claim (one per company) between 1-29 April.
The National Food Crime Unit of the Food Standards Agency has issued guidance for companies on how to identify and avoid fraudulent approaches from people impersonating either businesses or individuals to ‘purchase’ goods. Once they have received the goods, they become uncontactable leaving the supplier to face a financial loss.
The guidance details what checks you may want to consider performing when doing your due diligence. It lists the potential signs that your company may have had a fraudulent approach and how to protect against such crimes.
Last year, vital supplies of pure Co2 for use in the meat processing industry were saved by a last minute deal between Government and CF Industries, one of the UK’s major suppliers. But that deal is set to expire at the end of January and, so far, we don’t know what will happen after that.
BEIS hold the key to the Co2 crisis as they were at the centre of brokering this deal, but only they know what the terms are, so we don’t know what agreements are in place for stopping or scaling back production at the end of January.
BMPA has been lobbying Government to give the industry some indication about if and when CF may stop production so we’re forewarned and can plan ahead. We need this insight from BEIS because meat companies only deal with the gas wholesalers, so they don’t have a full overview of where Co2 supplies are coming from and what volumes will be available in the system.
Anecdotally some other suppliers have increased production of Co2 to some degree, but if CF were to shut down again abruptly, we’d be in the same boat as we were back at the start of the crisis because CF still represents such a large proportion of the UK’s supply (it’s been estimated up to 60%).
Radio 4’s Today Programme began the year looking at the issues surrounding labour supply in key industries, and Nick Allen, along with the Professional Officer for the Immigration Services Union gave their updates on the picture for the new year.
It’s been a quite start, but the same old labour problems are still there and, as the new year gets underway companies are bracing for continued pressure on staffing. Omicron absences is a factor, but so too is the prospect of some workers not returning to the UK from their Christmas breaks.
It’s still too early to tell but 2022 is already presenting serious challenges for the industry, which we’ll be calling for Government to help resolve through pragmatic immigration strategy and an understanding of the difficulty of recruiting workers in a labour market that’s changed substantially over the past two years.
Listen (from 1 hr 36 mins)
22 Dec, 2021
In a plan to protect the EU’s food supply system, Member States have stressed the importance of the internal market, and argued that cross-border mobility of people, goods, services and capital should be maintained in the event of a crisis. We have had an insight into the difficulties posed by not maintaining such movements here in the UK as we’ve faced labour shortages, supply disruption and food price inflation.
The contingency plan for food supply and food security, developed by the Commission as part of the farm to fork strategy, will help the EU face up to challenges including extreme weather events, plant and animal health issues, and shortages of key inputs such as fertilisers, energy and labour.
22 Dec, 2021
Quality Meat Scotland, AHDB and Meat Promotion Wales have produced a toolkit of resources to help everyone involved in sustainable red meat production join the Veganuary conversation in a positive way. The campaign focuses on the three key areas of health and wellbeing, sustainability, and the importance of buying local. You’ll find myth-busing information, easily digested facts on the role our industry plays in healthy diets and healthy landscapes.
22 Dec, 2021
An e-Certification system is being developed and has already been trialled on GB to NI movements with a plan to roll out in early 2022. The system allows for certificates to be requested and completed online and removes the requirement for stamps and automatic strikethroughs. It is also linked into the TRACES system where it ‘clones’ the Common Health Entry Document with the information, eliminating discrepancies.
The system is expected to halve certification times and is being developed collaboratively with the EU and Border Control Posts. The plan is to start trialling the system with EU BCPSs early in the new year and fully roll it out by the end of 2022 or early 2023.
21 Dec, 2021
Red Tractor has expressed disappointment at AHDB’s decision to withdraw funding and confirmed they will now have to re-assess their planned advertising activity. In their statement on why they came to this decision, AHDB said they feel that Red Tractor is now in a position to be able to self fund and therefore no longer needs seed funding. AHDB also cite other concerns expressed by levy payers and the wider industry including a perceived lack of clarity of the role of Red Tractor.
Their release also describes “concerns about the effectiveness of the current assurance process, the relevance and value of some of the existing standards and a perception that there is some inconsistency in their application”. It goes on to describe “conflicting views on whether the marketing of Red Tractor is effective in defending the market and/or achieving a premium”
21 Dec, 2021
Speaking to BBC’s You & Yours programme this week, Nick Allen was challenged on recent comments from the Home Office and Secretary of State George Eustice on the reasons behind the chronic butcher shortage in the UK. It’s been claimed that the industry has been slow to take up emergency butcher visas and also that companies have shown little interest in getting a Skilled Migration Sponsor License.
Nick clarified that both of these claims are wrong. Answering a question posed by Mr Eustice as to why the meat industry can’t just go back to hiring British workers like they used to 20 years ago, Nick also described how, over that period, the industry has changed and consolidated making it much harder to recruit local labour.
He explained that there are now far fewer but bigger processing companies that are located more sparsely across the country. There is no longer an abattoir in every town: “The situation we have now evolved over 20 years, but the Government is asking us to change over night”. Nick also spoke about the difficulties of skilled migration visas and current pig prices.
Listen from 54 seconds
21 Dec, 2021
DEFRA has now published the statistics for the UK Food Security Report 2021. The report, published once every three years, sets out an analysis of statistical data and examines past, current, and predicted trends to present the best available understanding of food security.
The report looks at the overall resilience of our food supply chain and assesses business resilience and response to various threats to supply including border issues, transport dependency, key inputs and Covid. EU countries continue to be the main source for food, feed and drink imports and are therefore essential to the UK’s food security. It’s therefore particularly important to ensure the UK Government gets its border infrastructure and system up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible rather than relying on repeated delays to imposing import controls on goods coming in via the short strait.
20 Dec, 2021
Following last Tuesday’s EFRA Committee hearing when Home Office Minister for Safe and Legal Migration, Kevin Foster, gave evidence that suggested the industry was not taking up opportunities to bring in much needed workers from abroad, EFRA Chairman Neil Parish has written to Mr Foster asking him to correct some of his evidence which later proved to be false.
The letter highlights the mistaken claim that only one of the big four pork processors holds a Skilled Worker License to enable them to bring in overseas workers. Actually, all four have a license, which leads to the second issue Mr Parish raised. While the salary threshold for butchers coming in on a Skills Visa is easily met, the English language requirement is so high as to preclude most skilled butchers who might otherwise be able to apply to fill those roles. Mr Parish has asked the Home Office to supply evidence supporting the claims they made about the level of proficiency necessary.
Read the letter (PDF)
20 Dec, 2021
BMPA recently organised a presentation to members from AMRC/FDF Cymru on the opportunities available in automation, productivity, business resilience, waste reduction and decarbonisation.
AMRC Cymru is part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and a member of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, a consortium of leading manufacturing and process research centres backed by Innovate UK.
Their goal is to help the region’s manufacturing community access advanced technologies that will drive improvements in productivity, performance and quality. In the food and drink sector, they are collaborating with Welsh Government and FDF Cymru to help food and drink manufacturers de-risk innovation and accelerate sustainable growth. You can view their presentation and find out more about how to get involved on the Members’ Portal.
20 Dec, 2021
In one of the last few interviews before he leaves FDF, Ian Wright told farming today of his fears for the future of British food exporters. Quoting a recent FDF report he said that exports in the nine months to September are down 35% to the Republic of Ireland, 44% to Germany and 50% to Spain, adding that these drops now appear to be ‘locked in’.
He went on to say: “Those lost markets won’t be recovered because other suppliers will have jumped in to provide those customers with the goods. And, once you’ve lost a market, it’s dozens of times more difficult to get it back than it was to win it in the first place”.
Listen from 7:07 minutes
16 Dec, 2021
Reported in the FT this week, J Sainsbury along with other European supermarket chains have pledged to stop selling certain Brazilian meat products after an investigation found they contributed to deforestation. It’s hoped that the move will prompt suppliers to introduce more stringent methods to eliminate product that has involved illegal deforestation or other environmental or human rights abuses from supply chains.
Separately, concerns have been raised that Australian beef responsible for deforestation could end up in our UK food system according to the terms of our new trade deal. Using satellite analysis of cattle ranching areas, it’s been shown that forest is still being cleared and wildlife habitats destroyed, making Australia the only country in the developed world on the WWF’s list of global deforestation hotspots.
16 Dec, 2021
The Food Standards Agency has launched a consultation (running until 14 March 2022) to gather views from businesses and consumers on precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) and information.
Labelling products with phrases like ‘may contain’ can be problematic and FSA would like to get your views on how it can be improved and how a more workable system could be developed that businesses can put into practice and consumers can trust.
The online consultation survey will cover topics including: the provision of precautionary allergen information to consumers; improving guidance and advice for businesses on how and when to use the labelling; ensuring compliance with regulations; and standardising risk-analysis for allergen cross-contamination.
16 Dec, 2021
It was announced this week that the current border arrangements for island of Ireland movements to GB are to be extended. It means that NI to GB movements via the Republic of Ireland (RoI) will now not need to be pre-notified from 1 January 2022. The arrangement is indefinite and is the only practical short term solution, but it will be reviewed in the new year.
BMPA’s Trade Policy Advisor, Peter Hardwick explains: “As things stood, NI goods would have had to undergo the same checks as RoI goods and that would mean they would no longer have the promised ‘unfettered’ access.
“This has nothing to do with being ‘nice’ to the EU and everything to do with the problems created by a Protocol that the UK Government signed up to with its eyes open to claim that they had got Brexit done, and to hell with the consequences.”
16 Dec, 2021
We’ve been getting a lot of media enquiries asking what we expect to happen over the coming weeks. British meat processors are already at full stretch to keep on top of day-to-day supplies and deal with the extra Christmas demand. We’ve had reports from members whose staff are working up to 40% more hours to keep food supplies moving. Everyone is putting in a herculean effort and – this is important to say – we’re incredibly grateful to our industry colleagues and proud of how they’ve risen to the huge challenges they’ve been faced with.
According to Government feedback from retailers food availability currently stands around 87% across all food categories with frozen food lower at around 80-85%. While the Government regard this as a stable figure, in reality it’s very low compared to normal.
Meat processors have done everything they can to mitigate the next wave of Covid infections but Omicron represents such an unknown threat that no one is sure exactly what the impact will be on an already stretched workforce.
16 Dec, 2021
Tuesday this week saw quite the exchange between MPs on the EFRA Committee and Home Office minister Kevin Foster who was giving video testimony on labour shortages in the food industry.
Many people in the industry were left puzzled by the apparent disconnect between what Mr Foster said and their own on-the-ground experience of trying to source workers. The testimony prompted comments about the lack of understanding at the Home Office of the new post-Brexit labour market and their stubborn refusal to accept overwhelming evidence of the harm being done to the British food manufacturing industry.
Since the EFRA hearing, we’ve heard numerous groups speaking out including the Migration Advisory Committee, whose recommendations from last year on how to alleviate the labour crisis have been dismissed by the Home Office. The full EFRA hearing is well worth watching to get a flavour for the Home Office’s position. The fireworks start from question one.
16 Dec, 2021
The Vegetarian Society has criticised Masterchef for having 10 out of 100 vegetarian savoury dishes, claiming that this doesn’t reflect the growing enthusiasm for non-meat and ‘flexitarian’ diets (the latter we would contend is still a diet that involves meat).
We did a bit of digging to find out if this claim holds up and discovered that the split between veggie and meat dishes does indeed reflect the current split in diet preferences of British consumers. Currently 6% of the population follow a vegetarian diet with 3% following a vegan diet.
We’re guessing that as the numbers change, so will the mix of dishes on Masterchef. Until then, we suspect Masterchef will want to appeal proportionately to their different audiences, the vast bulk of whom still like to eat meat. And, as Nick Allen commented to The Guardian this week: “It’s more interesting watching someone butcher a piece of meat than chopping up a carrot.”
10 Dec, 2021
New due diligence provisions in the Environment Act will make it illegal for larger businesses operating in the UK to use key forest risk commodities in their supply chains. Businesses in scope will be required to undertake a due diligence exercise on their supply chains and to publish a report on this exercise annually or risk fines and other sanctions.
Defra has launched a consultation to seek the views of interested parties on which commodities will be in scope of regulations, which businesses will be subject to provisions, what they will be required to undertake and report on and how the requirements will be enforced. Businesses have until 11 March 2022 to respond.
10 Dec, 2021
New trade figures from the USDA reveal just how big an effect fluctuations in Chinese demand have on global meat prices. Senior Economics Analyst at Quality Meat Scotland, Iain Macdonald analyses wholesale price movements in the pork, beef and sheep meat markets from 2016 to now. He overlays the trade figures with commentary on how supply has evolved over that period and how changing tastes amongst Chinese consumers may have permanently changed the playing field.
Finally, he considers how China’s trade relations with Australia and New Zealand (which appear fractious at the moment) could indirectly lead to the UK domestic market being flooded with imported beef and lamb via the incredibly generous trade deals about to be signed. He contends: “If Australia and NZ’s currently strong beef and sheepmeat export trade with China was to come under threat for any reason, the UK could become an outlet for this substantial volume of product once these FTAs enter force”
8 Dec, 2021
From January 1st 2022 the VAT due on imports into France will no longer be collected by French customs authorities but will automatically be reverse-charged on the taxpayer’s French VAT returns. As a result, import VAT will no longer be payable to your French customs brokers. This reverse charge mechanism is very beneficial for businesses as it allows them to avoid costly pre-funding of import VAT.
Eligible French companies that act as the importers of record in France will have to register for a valid French VAT number and file VAT declarations to be allowed to import goods into France and benefit from this system.
RMB, a specialist in international cross-border formalities is holding a webinar to explain this new system and how to navigate it on 16 December 2021 at 4pm.
8 Dec, 2021
The National Audit Office has published a report this week that predicts a paltry 0% to 0.16% uplift to GDP over the next decade from trade deals negotiated with Japan, Australia, New Zealand and America. It also criticised the lack of consultation and inclusion of businesses, the public and Parliament in the rush to conclude negotiations. Angus Brendan MacNeil, chairman of the International Trade Committee, said: “Ministers should focus on getting deals right, rather than constantly rushing to move on to the next negotiation.”
8 Dec, 2021
“We’ve done everything that the NPA said would solve the problem. What we now need is for them to implement what we’ve offered, which is to get those 800 butchers”. That was George Eustice on Farming Today this week.
He went on to say: “We need them to bring the butchers over and get the job done.” However, bringing the butchers over is somewhat out of the control of the industry as the application process has to be handled by a small number of Government appointed recruitment agents.
The number and speed of emergency visas for pork butchers being processed has been disappointing to date, with very few butchers expected to arrive in early December. The big question is whether many will even decide to come to the UK this close to Christmas, or whether they’ll decide to leave it until the new year. The changing covid landscape could also impact how many emergency butchers we’re able to recruit.
Listen (from 6:57 minutes)
8 Dec, 2021
As the first lab-grown meat products near commercialisation in the US, the USDA has a tricky debate to navigate on how to name and label these novel products. A call for comments has exposed a wide divergence of views. Some believe if it’s ‘meat ‘ at a cellular level, regardless of how it’s cultivated, then it could be called ‘meat’. Others take a more cautious view in the absence of a definitive scientific evaluation of cell-cultured meat, saying that a decision on labelling shouldn’t be based on unverified claims about those products.
Even the founder of the Plant Based Foods Association, Michelle Simon commented that: “The industry is in a very early stage of product development and is closely guarding its intellectual property given the massive amounts of investment capital at stake. as a result of having zero product on the market, information on characteristics is not available for public evaluation and scrutiny”.
Let’s hope that the missing information does become available before consumers go too far down the road of ditching real, nutrient-dense fresh meat in favour of new ‘black-box’ meat analogues.
3 Dec, 2021
AHDB has had their case upheld by the Advertising Standards Agency to have Meatless Farm’s social media adverts withdrawn for misleading the public. This was after it received hundreds of complaints.
Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance probably sums it up best: ‘The choice to go plant-based is a personal one, but the firms promoting it need to play by the rules and be honest about their product. Fictional benefits seem to be a common theme in marketing meat substitutes.’
3 Dec, 2021
In a Westminster Hall debate this week on “the contribution of food and drink to the UK economy” MPs and Peers highlighted the size and importance of ‘our largest manufacturing sector’. Sir John Hayes proposed that to support the sector, the government could mandate that public sector purchasing of food and drink prioritise domestic production. There was also a question as to whether the government should review rules that allow produce grown abroad – but packaged in the UK – to be labelled as UK produce. Several other members contributed on topics such as labour shortages and regulatory burdens.
3 Dec, 2021
After Defra’s announcement of the new timetable for import checks, Chairman of the EFRA Committee Neil Parish has said: “the Committee has little faith in this new schedule. Enough is enough. From now on, the Committee has requested a comprehensive update on the progress from the Department on the first working day of every month and for it to inform us immediately of any further delays – and the reason”.