British plate

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has dismissed claims that imported meat is being mislabelled and passed off as British beef in stores.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead announced yesterday (4 May) that he had ordered an investigation into the “sharp decline” in cattle prices after farmers claimed it could be linked to beef imports from other countries being “wrongly packaged” and labelled as UK meat.

“The speculation that imported meat is being passed off as a domestic product is a serious matter,” he said. “The Scottish Government has drawn this to the attention of Food Standards Scotland and has asked them to work with QMS to establish if any breach of the EU regulations is taking place.”

However, QMS chairman Jim McLaren told The Grocer that there was “no evidence whatsoever” to suggest any wrong-doing in the beef supply chain.

He said the “potentially damaging, inaccurate speculation” stemmed from a misunderstanding of the complex factors behind cattle price fluctuations, which include exchange rates.

McLaren acknowledged that falling prices were a “source of frustration and concern for cattle finishers”, but said it was vital that everyone in the industry “continues to work together to protect the integrity which underpins our product.”

He added that the coming months were looking “more encouraging” for beef producers as the supply and demand pendulum swings back in favour of farmers.

“All the signals suggest it is likely we will then see some firmness in the market for beef producers,” he said.

QMS is producing a report for the Scottish Government to explain the factors behind falling cattle prices in response to Lochhead’s request.