The NFU is mounting a major charm offensive to encourage retailers to use British red meat, and hopes to get them to sign a charter to that effect.

After a tour of buyers at the top five supermarkets, livestock board chairman Thomas Binns said that the response had been encouraging, with news that Tesco expected British beef in its premium offer to account for up to 30% of category sales in the future. Asda has committed to use British product for its standard and premium ranges.

Binns said: "If we can get these assurances, it helps us communicate the picture to our farmers. In return, we have to see how we can help retailers deliver what customers want. If that means farmers have to pull their fingers out and become farm-assured, so be it."

NFU livestock advisor Peter King said that the aim was to work with buyers to anticipate future trends. "If that means local sourcing of organic meat, let's get that structure in place now so farmers can benefit."