Dec 2017: Food provenance organisation, Happerley, cautions consumers to beware of the meat they buy for their festive meals this Christmas, and advises them to challenge restaurants, retailers and butchers to name the farm of origin.
It warns that food fraud peaks when supply and demand is most tested, and at Christmas too many low welfare food imports are dressed up as a traditional UK product and sold at a misleading premium. Free range organic turkeys can fetch over £20 per kg retail compared with frozen birds at less than £3.
Happerley’s founder, Matthew Rymer, believes consumers would be shocked to know the level of fraud and deceit: “Too many families will sit down for their festive meal this year, at home or in restaurants, unaware that their food has been imported from thousands of miles away. Turkey can be sourced from as far away as Brazil and Chile, and goose imported from Hungary and Poland.
“An industry informant recently told me that many geese sold into the food chain come from Eastern Europe at Christmas. They are cheap because the carcasses are a by-product of the live down plucking industry. There are real welfare issues here and the consumer is blissfully unaware.
“I have also been told of transit van loads of foreign turkey crowns entering food service as free range British. I have discovered foreign gammon sold at butchers as local woodland pork. I have found beef on menus cited as locally farmed to come from intensive South American feed lots. The consumer needs to start asking more questions.”
Happerley member, Roger Olver, whose Cornish Duck Company farms some 3,000 free range ducks, supports this view. “Some of the conditions on intensive European duck farms are quite frankly, ghastly. The market is flooded with them at this time of year.”
Rod Adlington heads up Adlington Farm, producers of award winning turkeys, poultry and meats from Warwickshire, and adds: “The UK is a growing importer of white meat and container loads are coming in daily. Much of this is farmed just as it is in the UK, but some of it is not. Christmas is a great opportunity to source locally, reward high animal welfare standards and enjoy the journey of your food. But it is up to consumers to challenge the origins.”