beef cow

Tesco has defended its commitment to British and Irish meat after criticism over a new trial of Argentinian and Wagyu beef.

The NFU criticised the retailer for extending supply chains, after revealing it was trialling the sale of branded South American beef cuts on fresh meat counters across six stores in England and Wales.

“We know that 73% of the public want to support the British farming industry by buying British food, said NFU Cymru deputy president John Davies.

“With this week being Great British Beef Week, it was the perfect opportunity for supermarkets to be celebrating the great products we have. Therefore it is disappointing that Tesco has taken the decision to stock a branded line of Argentinian beef.”

However, Tesco said it was still a “proud supporter” of British and Irish beef, which it said was still available on its fresh meat counters, and pointed out the Argentinian and Wagyu products were not Tesco-branded products.

“We’re always looking to explore new food trends and trial new products and flavours with our customers, and are running a limited trial of popular restaurant products - Argentinian and Wagyu beef - alongside our usual range on counters,” said a spokeswoman for Tesco. ”We continue to sell 100% UK and Irish for Tesco branded fresh beef.”

UK beef and veal imports were up 3% year on year in February, to 20,400 tonnes, according to AHDB.

Over half of those imports came from Ireland, but produce from other countries also grew over the past year, with beef and veal from Poland up by 38%, and frozen beef imports from the Netherlands up 17%. Argentinian imports to the UK made up just 0.13% of total UK beef imports in 2016, with the country only the 11th largest global beef exporter.