Wednesday 13 February 2013

Every dark horse has a silver lining

It seems that at least some good is coming of the horsemeat scandal. Shoppers are returning to buying meat from independent butchers:
Independent butchers are... reporting a boost in demand – particularly for processed meat such as mince and burgers.
The Q Guild – which represents 110 of the “highest quality butchers in the UK” said freshly made beefburger sales have increased by up to 30%.
And Roger Kelsey – chief executive of the 13,000 member National Federation of Meat & Food Traders (NFMFT), said there was “definite evidence” consumers were looking for alternative supplies.
He estimated his members had enjoyed a 10-15% boost in their business since mid-January, with anything up to a 50% increase in the demand for sausages, mince and burgers.
Not everyone agrees, though:
The figures are challenged by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents UK supermarkets.
Well they would say that, wouldn’t they? The manufacturers and supermarkets that sold us fraudulently-labelled food have seen public trust plummet over the past month. They must know that the most valuable asset of any organisation is trust, and that applies especially to an industry producing something so vital as food.

Trust is like virginity – once lost it is hard to recover. That won’t stop the food industry avoiding the fundamental problems by spending a fortune on PR. Someone should tell the BRC that denial is not a winning strategy.

Instead, the supermarkets should reflect and realise they have only themselves to blame. First, they screwed down the prices of their suppliers, creating incentives to cut corners. Then they developed lengthy and complex supply chains, which made it more difficult to discover when corners were being cut.

The Liberal Democrats should be using these developments to underline their long-held belief in the virtues of human-scale organisation. It’s a shame the party isn’t making this point.

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