I try and avoid supermarkets, I try and avoid shopping in general. But supermarkets, for some reason, evoke an irrational anger in me. It's the whole thing, starting with the car park. Someone is probably paid a full time wage to design supermarket car parks...I hope it's a meagre one. Parking is always a chore, then you can't get the trolley because you haven't got a pound coin to release the thief-deterrent padlock chaining it to all the others. There is always someone who makes it their life purpose to keep you behind them whilst they move at the slowest pace possible. The whole affair is a process I dislike a great deal. This week however I did go to the supermarket...one of the worst ones in fact. Tesco...
I went to Tesco on a fact finding mission. I had heard that following last years 'voluntary code of conduct' that milk processors signed up to, Tesco was now selling 4 pints of milk for £1, down by 39p. That's 25p per pint! This is absurd! I fail to understand why...why oh why do they (supermarkets in general, because it's not just Tesco) feel the need to do it? It's been all over the news, the general public knows dairy farmers are struggling. There was the blockades, and the marches, and the sums on the news showing how hard it is to make a profit. However it all now seems pointless, because those protests and campaigns weren't just simply about getting more money for the farmer, they were about adding value to a product that they felt passionate about producing. A product which, no sooner has it hit the shelves, is then devalued by selling it at a price similar to that of the cost of production.
It's not just milk though, it was no surprise when the horse meat scandal was uncovered. It makes total sense really. It cannot be feasibly possible to produce an entire portion of lasagne and get it onto the shelf, packaged, for £1...think about it, the packaging, the meat, the pasta sheets, other ingredients. Not to mention the labour, transport and legislative costs that manufacturing a ready meal bears with it. As a livestock producer it has left me scratching my head wondering how on earth it was achievable. Now though it's obvious. Like drug dealers making their consignments of cocaine go further on the street, they cut the main ingredient, the beef, with a low cost alternative such as horse meat, which drastically cuts the production costs and increases margins. Then this week I was reminded of a story that first emerged some 5 years ago, that Halal and Kosher meat is finding its way into the food chain, without any requirement for consumer notification. Now this isn't a health and safety, or an environmental issue, but if you know about the Halal and Kosher methods of slaughter, then you may well want to be informed and exercise your consumer right to steer clear of it. We are fortunate to live in a country where wide ranges of religions, cultures and beliefs are encouraged and respected. However I cant say I agree with these methods in the slightest. I do respect the historical reasons as to why they exist though. If you're really interested in finding out more, then there are videos of these slaughter processes on the internet. However I warn you now they do not make for easy viewing for those even with the hardest of hearts. So again, where these choices are added into the mix, the supply chain becomes more complex, which in turn adds a cost, and as such it does not surprise me in the slightest that Halal and Kosher meat is working its way into the food chain, especially with the lack of requirement of labelling information surrounding it.
With this in mind, is there really cause to complain when we find out this information? After all, it is the consumer who is buying this produce, and creating the demand for it. Fortunately, there is an alternative (shameless plug coming up!) It is completely fair to say that the only way you can be entirely sure of the background of the animal and its path to becoming fresh meat is by buying from the small scale producers, who you know and trust. We know exactly where it has been slaughtered, butchered and packaged before coming back to us for sale. However for every person who wants that service, there are probably 50 who just want to get as much for their money as they possibly can, and I can't say I blame them. We all do it, whether it's insurance, utility bills, petrol, or groceries. We all want to get the best price possible. What you decide to pay more for depends on the values you hold and what matters to you as a consumer.
So whilst every time this information on horsemeat or Halal and Kosher meat comes to light, and there is a public outcry, it does not mean that the situation has been ended. It just means the large scale manufacturers or processors, or even supermarkets are finding their way around it. In short, it'll never stop, it will just evolve.