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Asda has been accused of abandoning British farmers after the supermarket chain went back on a pledge to sell only British beef.

The retailer said it was reneging on the commitment it made in October, because beef prices have risen considerably off the back of soaring costs. 

Rising energy and fertiliser prices have forced producers to increase their prices by about 20 per cent since the start of the pandemic

Richard Findlay, livestock board chairman of the National Farmers Union, said: “It is incredibly disappointing that Asda has gone back on its commitment to source 100 per cent British beef.

“Given the significant changes to trade and agricultural policy, it is more important than ever that our retailers champion British food and farming and that, fundamentally, any sourcing commitments they make are honoured.”

Neil Shand, the chief executive of the National Beef Association, added: “Our supermarkets need to support domestic producers as much as possible – now more than ever.”

Asda opts for cheaper Irish beef

Asda, the UK’s third largest supermarket chain, made the initial commitment after it was taken over by the billionaire Issa brothers, entrepreneurs from Blackburn who made their fortunes running petrol stations.

However, it will now sell beef produced in both Britain and Ireland. Irish beef is around 20 per cent cheaper than British beef and accounts for about 80 per cent of the UK’s beef imports.

A spokesman for Asda said: “We know that it is important to our customers that the beef on our shelves has been produced to high welfare standards and is affordable. 

“Unfortunately, the price of British beef has risen and whilst we continue to work hard to keep prices as low as possible for our customers, these increases are significant.”

Martin Lines, chairman of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said that the supermarket had “abandoned British farmers”.

“It feels like another PR stunt,” he said. “As soon as the dust settled, they walked away. It’s a pattern of warm words but poor actions. We’re bitterly upset and cross but have come to expect nothing better.”

Joe Stanley, a beef farmer from Leicestershire, described the latest move as “death by 1,000 cuts”.

“This is just another blow for beef farmers’ profitability,” he said.

Other retailers stay British

Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Co-op, Aldi and Lidl are still committed to selling solely British beef.

A Co-op spokesman said: “We’re proud to support British beef farmers and Co-op was the first national supermarket to commit to only selling 100 per cent own brand British meat and poultry. 

“We also only use British meat ingredients in our frozen products and sandwiches and ready meals.”

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