Quality is key to future of meat sales as food testing starts in Devon
Shoppers could be turning to high street butchers and farm shops in search of traceable meat products following the horsemeat scandal.
The suggested shift in consumer habits comes as testing ordered by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) begins in Devon to identify the scale of the problem. But at Cornwall Council a spokesman said it had not been asked by the FSA to check for traces of horse in meat products in the Duchy and was not one of 28 local authorities selected.
One Westcountry butcher said customers were so sickened by the thought of processed food, thanks to the horsemeat scandal, many had been reluctant to buy even minced beef from his shop.
Devon farmer Richard Haddock, who runs the Churston farm shop, near Brixham, said he had not sold "even a gramme" of beef mince on Saturday because dishes like lasagne and bolognese were off the menu.
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He said he had to reassure customers that his Aberdeen Angus cattle could be traced back to the very field where they were reared. In one case he was asked to produce a "passport" to satisfy a buyer of the beef's provenance. "It shocked me," he said. "The biggest damage this whole thing has done is to confidence – now we are having to rebuild trust."
Frozen foods firm Findus last week announced it had taken its beef lasagnes made by French food supplier Comigel off shelves after some were found to have up to 100% horse meat in them.
An elaborate supply chain for the horse meat found was traced through Luxembourg, France, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Romania, denting confidence in processed and cheaper, imported meats.
Brindon Addy, chairman of the Q Guild representing 130 butchers nationwide, said: "There has definitely been a spike in sales for the high street butcher in recent weeks – some are saying by as much as 20 and 30%.
Supply and price analysts EBLEX said there was no "hard and fast" data available yet, but anecdotal evidence suggested a rise in "savvy" people buying "fresh" meat and "higher-quality" products.
Steve Brown, a butcher from Saltash, said many meat processing companies had switched to the cheaper alternatives from outside Britain, but others were happy to pay more for quality. "Even though it is more expensive, it's what the customers want," he said.