Supermarkets want direct procurement to become universal model Tortuous' meat supply chain blasted by Tesco Scathing criticism of the beef supply chain in Britain was voiced by Tesco meat category director Steve Murrells at a Bord Bia forum in Dublin. Supermarket operators have long expressed their reservations about the complex system, a jumble of livestock auctions and dealling operations along with secdonary wholesalers, but Murrells was candid in calling for change. "We couldn't have designed a more tortuous supply chain if we'd tried," he said, recalling the frustration Tesco and other major retailers felt years ago when they realised consumer sensitivity to meat safety and animal welfare was creating a need for transparency and simplicity. The profusion of farm management systems, breeds and distribution channels "made the job of sourcing the specification of meat that our customers were demanding very difficult indeed". The messages from consumers were almost impossible to communicate back to livestock producers, said Murrells, adding: "Even if the messages got through, there appeared to be no great incentive (for farmers) to respond." Pursuing his theme of the need for accurate demand signal transmission and traceability, Murrells took the argument to its logical conclusion, explicitly challenging the role of livestock auctions. "I would be surprised if the various investigations taking place into the lessons learned from foot and mouth do not have something to say about the network of livestock dealerships and auction markets when they reach their conclusions," he said. Murrell articulated the supermarkets' desire for direct procurement to become almost the universal supply chain model, but many in the British livestock sector reckons auctions, dealers and secondary wholesalers are essential to prevent the supermarkets and their major slaughtering suppliers rigging the prices of livestock. {{MEAT }}