By the end of January, all the meat in its ready meals would be British, said category manager for meal solutions, Justin James. "The final part of the equation will be in place so that we are the only retailer to have all those product areas sourcing British," he said.
The move marks a dramatic change in stance for the retailer, which a year ago sourced only 10% of the meat for its ready meals from the UK, while chicken came from as far afield as the Far East and much of its beef came from Ireland.
It would satisfy consumer demand for food safety guarantees and supplier calls for more transparency in the ready meal meat supply chain, added James.
Under the new initiative, Sainsbury's would source about 3,100 tonnes of British beef and 6,200 tonnes of British chicken per year, it said.
As part of its wider commitment to British meat, it also planned to source the standard lamb in its nine Welsh stores through Young Farmers of Wales.
Farmers who met the specification would receive a 1p/kg bonus above the market rate, it said, while Sainsbury's would pay a contribution to Young Farmers of Wales to help it build a better and stronger infrastructure. "It's a great example of distinct ways of working, and Sainsbury's recognition of the lack of incentives for young people to stay or come back into agriculture," said the retailer's agriculture manager, Annie Graham.
The retailer added that it would also guarantee a route to market for beef and veal from black and white bull calves born on Sainsbury's Dairy Development Group farms, with members receiving a guaranteed calf price for their animals, which will be supplied to Anglo Beef Processors.
Some of those will be reared on a Freedom Food-accredited rearing unit for Sainsbury's veal, which is expected to go into store on 21 January.