Morrisons and Tesco were able to bask in a rare compliment from the National Beef Association this week, which has named them as the strongest supporters of British beef.

Market data supplied to the NBA showed Morrisons sourced 97% of its fresh beef in Britain in the first six months of the year while Tesco bought 85-96% here. NBA chief executive Robert Forster congratulated retailers for supporting UK farmers. "Their Britain-first purchasing policy is encouraging," he said. However, Asda and Sainsbury's were criticised by Forster for their heavy reliance on beef from the Republic of Ireland.

Less than two thirds of their beef was British, Forster said, with more than half imported at certain times of the year. He accused Asda of taking the "lazy option" of importing beef and said Sainsbury's was wedded to "commodity conveyor belt principles".

Asda, however, has challenged the TNS figures and claimed it has stepped up its British sourcing.