Tesco has held crisis talks with beef farmers and processors about how it will secure future stocks of beef.
The retailer convened a meeting of leading suppliers last week to discuss supply arrangements for beef against a backdrop of unsustainably low domestic producer prices, rising demand on the Continent, the absence of South American meat from the market and the imminent resumption of British beef exports (see right).
One attendee told The Grocer that senior staff from the retailer admitted that a new approach to buying beef might be required if it was to avoid stores running out. He said: "What Tesco was doing was demonstrating that it is prepared to move faster in response to tighter supplies in the future and in terms of securing what it needs. It outlined what its plans were and was even critical of itself.
"It said a new situation demanded new solutions. It then proceeded to pick the brains of those assembled through workshops, looking at things such as producer clubs."
He added: "I think Tesco wants to adopt a more organised approach. The European Union is in deficit and supplies are getting shorter in the UK - and will continue to get shorter.
"Tesco realises this and is trying to gather round as many people as it can so it doesn't face a shortfall. It wants to gather around groups of friends."
He said Tesco's fresh foods team were also keen to discuss how to add value to the market. "They have a 'good, better, best' offer and want to inflate the market by selling more 'better and best' product.
"They wanted to look at improving the consistency and tenderness of beef."
A Tesco spokesman said: "We're constantly seeking ways to serve our customers better. A key part of that is ensuring the right products are on the shelves at the right time."
Richard Clarke