Friday, December 18, 2009, Western Morning News
WESTCOUNTRY farmers have voiced their fury at supermarket chain Asda after it was revealed it imported more than 30,000 frozen turkeys from Brazil in time for Christmas.
The frozen birds were brought into the country for sale at prices below those which British-reared birds sell at.
They were transported more than 5,500 miles to Britain, with the origin of the birds only written in small print on the back of the packets.
The whole Brazilian birds did not reach the shelves, however, as they were taste-tested on arrival in the UK and found not to be up to the required standard because of the baste used. However, 17,000 turkey crowns remain on sale.
One farmer said it did not surprise him in the least, adding that the move only fed a feeling that supermarkets were not doing everything they could to support British farmers.
Errol Warman, a turkey farmer who runs Trevilley Farm Shop near Newquay, said: "There are certain restrictions in this country for farming turkeys to guarantee the quality, like temperature and [living] conditions. It makes it difficult to understand why they go to Brazil when they can guarantee the quality here."
The idea of buying local turkeys ties in with the WMN's Think Local campaign, sponsored by Worldwide Financial Planning, which encourages readers to source goods and services locally.
Mr Warman added: "Trying to source as much local produce as possible helps suppliers in these difficult times when the economy is low. You also have a better chance of knowing what you are getting – there are more chances of learning about the conditions turkeys have been kept in and whether they are free range or organic. They should be showing a lot more information. Everything is about low cost – there is nothing about quality."
Asda customers do have the opportunity to buy British, though the Brazilian turkey crowns are cheaper at £5.33 per kilo, compared with £6.17 per kilo for turkeys produced in the UK.
Since it was revealed Asda has been importing the turkeys, it has taken the opportunity to boast on its website about aiming to sell record numbers of native birds in the lead up to Christmas.
Daniel Mason, of Sladesdown meat and poultry farm in Ashburton, sells turkeys directly from his farm and online.
He said: "This is nothing new really. It makes you cross because they can source a bird twice as tasty right on their doorstep – there is no need to go all the way to Brazil. In this climate the money should be going into our labourers' pockets. The food miles on our farm are virtually zero when it's thousands of miles from Brazil.
"What you pay for is what you get; the quality and welfare here is top-notch, but in Brazil you have no idea what the quality is like. It doesn't paint the best portrait."
An Asda spokesman said: "It's the quality and taste of our food that we care about most, no matter where it comes from."
She said the decision to pull one batch was made because "we weren't 100 per cent happy" with the taste of the baste, "so rather than risk spoiling anyone's Christmas dinner we took it off sale".