Raw material prices are rising fast, and the British farming lobby has done a superb job mobilising consumer and political support. Gordon Brown has instructed retailers not to take advantage of foot and mouth. And, in a move that demonstrates how politically charged the issue has become, Tesco this week raised the amount it pays farmers for a raft of key products. Egg and chicken prices have gone up - both to farmers and on the shelf. On Tuesday Tesco even called the NFU into HQ to pledge its support for livestock producers, agreeing to prop up farmgate lamb prices. This ethical stance seems a world away from the rampant retailers the Competition Commission are supposed to be investigating. But, paradoxically, this stance goes hand in hand with determination to be the cheapest. Tesco has got where it is today by being all things to all people, which means offering something to ethical and budget-conscious shoppers alike. So don't think this spells the end of two-for-£2 milk or half-price veg. Tesco just plays the balancing act better than anyone else.