Morrisons pauses commitment to British lamb

Morrisons pauses commitment to British lamb

UK supermarket Morrisons will begin trialling the sale of New Zealand lamb in some of its stores, after committing to only sourcing British lamb in 2017.

Morrisons said New Zealand lamb would be sold in 39 stores as part of a trial.

The New Zealand lamb will be sold in 39 Morrisons stores as part of the trial. It comes as consumers look for cheaper lamb with year-round availability.

In 2023, Morrisons was the first supermarket to implement a ‘Buy British’ section on its website in order to encourage purchases of British produce.

A Morrisons spokesperson said: “Morrisons will later this week start a trial selling New Zealand lamb in 39 stores. The trial follows an extensive exercise listing to customers who were very clear that they want us to sell lamb at a more accessible price all year round.

“The blunt commercial reality is that New Zealand lamb is cheaper to source, and therefore cheaper to sell, than British lamb. We will remain 100% British lamb on all our butchers’ counters, and the New Zealand lamb will of course be clearly labelled so customers in these trial stores will see the difference and can make a choice.

“We do not intend this to mean a reduction in the overall volumes of lamb that we buy directly from British farmers.”

Industry expresses disappointment

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) chair David Barton said: “British sheep farmers and shoppers will be incredibly disappointed that Morrisons has dropped its commitment to sell only British lamb, albeit on a trial basis. The retailer has built its reputation on British-only sourcing and supported British farmers through its fully integrated supply chain.

“This comes at a time when the livestock sector is already under pressure from the impacts of the unprecedented wet weather. Recently, the UK farming unions wrote to the CEO of Morrisons and other top retailers seeking support for the industry including a steadfast commitment to local sourcing in order to maintain food production across the UK and to safeguard our food security.”

Barton continued: “British lamb is a high-welfare, sustainable, delicious product and we know that shoppers trust its quality and high-production standards. It’s all the more disappointing that our own home-grown lamb is likely to be replaced by products from overseas with significant food miles and produced to potentially lower standards.

“British food is some of the best in the world and it’s important this is recognised, especially in times of enormous challenge. We hope that this trial by Morrisons is temporary and concludes with a return to 100% British lamb sourcing as soon as possible.”

Chief executive of the National Sheep Association (NSA) Phil Stocker said: “UK sheep farmers have been receiving strong prices for their produce over recent months, but if we want high standards in the UK then these are realistic prices that are needed for farmers to produce lamb sustainably and at a price that can allow much needed reinvestment into their farms.

“The last thing UK producers now need is for their prices to be undermined by cheaper imports.”

NFU Scotland vice president Andrew Connon, a beef and sheep farmer from Aberdeenshire, said: “As Scottish farmers and crofters emerge from a very challenging lambing time, the news that major retailer Morrisons is stepping back from its 2017 commitment to stock only Scottish and British lamb in its stores will feel a bit like a slap in the face. It comes at a time when volumes of fresh, tasty new season lamb are growing week by week, produced to the highest standards and to a quality that is second to none.

“That long-running support for Scottish and UK agriculture across all product categories has been a central part of Morrisons’ reputation, branding and marketing. Choosing to turn to New Zealand at this time, and paying scant regard to concerns over food miles, needs proper explanation to the industry, backed up by reassurances over the volumes of Scottish and British lamb that the retailer still intends to purchase in the future.”

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