Horse meat scandal will mean higher meat prices: Tesco

Philip Clarke

The horse meat scandal would seem to have done enough damage - but it's not finished yet. There's a good chance that it will push up the price of all meat on the supermarket shelves.

But why do we have to pay for failures in the industry, and is it fair we should pay more?


The news came in a presentation by Tesco Chief Executive, Philip Clarke, to the annual conference of the National Farmers' Union.

In it he admitted that scandals like this one: "can cause immense damage to trust in our industry." He said that a new testing regime would be introduced by the supermarket - at a cost of £2 million a year. He said that customers would not bear the brunt of the cost of testing - the supermarket would lose a bit of its margin instead.

He also announced a change to the way the supermarket sources its meat - bringing more of it closer to home, and with fewer organisations involved in the chain from the animal to the shelves. He blamed previous complexity for the scandal, saying: "Over many years, the way retailers source food has been allowed to become too complex. What this complexity in the supply chain has also done is to leave it open to exploitation by rogue elements operating in the industry."

Buying British

He committed to buying British. This was also communicated to shoppers in an email to everyone who has registered their address with the store.

In it Clarke says: "You've told us that you want to buy British. And that the journey from farm to fork should be far less complicated. I've listened to what you have said... Today I make you a promise. Tesco is going to bring the food we sell closer to home."

He said that already the store's beef - fresh, frozen and in ready meals - comes from the UK and the Republic of Ireland, but that from July all chicken will be from the British Isles.

He also announced a new website, where the supermarket will keep customers informed of its progress. It also has details of all the products that have been tested, those that have been withdrawn, and those that have been cleared.

The cost

However, all of this comes at a cost. He told the conference: "I hope that it doesn't mean price increases, but I can't stand here today and tell you that it won't."

New supply chains, buying more British meat, a new agriculture director, and a new website dedicated to telling consumers about the supply chain in a variety of media: they are all going cost a small fortune.

The supermarket didn't become the country's biggest, with massive profits, by doing this sort of thing entirely out of its own margins. The cost of doing business will go up, and we can expect to see this reflected in the price we see on the shelves.

Is this fair?

On the one hand it feels as though we are paying double for the mistakes of the industry. However, there's another view. You could argue that these higher prices are what we should have been paying all along. The EC says that beef prices have risen over 45% in Europe in the last five years. However, the cost of beef products has kept roughly in line with food inflation of 4%.

If we had been willing to pay a fraction more we never would have become dependent on mechanically reclaimed meat to keep costs down. If we weren't leaning on that manufacturing process we wouldn't have been so wrong-footed when legislators decided we couldn't call it meat any more, and we wouldn't have been out and about in a global market hunting for the lowest cost meat and living with the consequences.

There's an argument that if we cannot afford meat, we should have some days without it, and value the days when we can. We should eat good quality - and expect to pay for it - and make ends meet by having the odd pasta, pizza or risotto day.

It wouldn't hurt our health either. A study by Cambridge University Institute of Public Health found that halving our meat intake would lead to thousands fewer cases of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

But what do you think? Are higher meat prices a cause for concern, or the price of having ethics? Let us know in the comments.

10 consumer rights you should know
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Horse meat scandal will mean higher meat prices: Tesco

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.


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