Contrary to what some would argue, Britain needs to buy meat from different countries around the world, says Guy Odri, CEO of French poultry producer Groupe Doux

United Kingdom plc is a major importer of food in general, and poultry in particular.

People eat a lot of chicken here - at last count about

23 kg/person per year. But despite being a major producer in its own right, it still imported 530,000 tonnes of chicken in 2004.

And despite the groundswell of support recently for locally or at least nationally sourced food, that’s no bad thing as far as I’m concerned. The UK should continue to source from across the globe and support poultry producers in countries such as Brazil or Thailand.

It is not only good for the UK market in particular, but the world poultry market in general.

One reason is variety. The UK consumer’s palate has become more sophisticated and there is now more demand for more interesting food options.

This is good for the consumer, and good for those farms that make the effort to supply a wide range of poultry and chickens.

Another reason is standards. The UK has always set high standards for its food industry. This has certainly been helped by its improving reputation as a culinary destination, and its ever-popular cooking and food programmes.

UK supermarkets are rightly rigid and scrupulous in the standards they set and this, in its own way, makes sure that quality levels are maintained - not just in the UK but anywhere that sells to the UK.

High standards are good for UK citizens, beneficial for local populations, and for the industry as a whole.

Another benefit is the guarantee of quality supply. So, for example, if there is a crisis such as avian flu or a lack of stock in one part of the world, it pays to have another source of quality poultry to take its place. It’s important to have these channels open and ready, and already producing chicken to the required safety and health standard to keep customers supplied and consumers happy.

Several of our customers in Europe are buying into this security and the fact that we offer a real multi-sourcing contingency plan is one of our key strengths. We own farms in France and in Brazil. Yes, it comes at a price, but fortunately some companies, already working with us, trust this way of working and can see a return on their investment.