Treated imports could change shoppers minds on meat

Allowing imports of products like chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef in a post-Brexit trade deal could have a negative impact on the UK meat industry, according to new research.

The study was conducted by YouGov in conjunction with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

The findings show that more than half of 1,000 people surveyed said they would buy less chicken and beef in the event of a deal being struck that saw meat treated in this way hitting supermarket shelves.

These practices are not currently allowed in chicken and beef production in EU Member States.

Furthermore, if products such as chlorine-washed chicken and beef treated with artificial growth hormones did arrive on the shelves, only around one in five (19%) claim it would not have an impact on how they shop.

83% of those surveyed said they would pay more attention to labeling, while 81% of people surveyed would be concerned about quality and look more closely at the product in the event of these meats being imported.

More than three quarters of shoppers said it would cause them to look more closely at production methods.

But separate AHDB research by Future Thinking shows while people claim that provenance (25%), quality assurance marks (13%) and welfare standards (9%) are important to them, what influences them at point of purchase is different – at 9%, 5% and 2% respectively.

A distinct gap

Commenting on the findings, David Swales, AHDB head of strategic insight said: “There is an argument that given clear labeling, these products would offer consumers more choice.

“However, our research shows there is a distinct gap between what consumers say is important to them and what influences their purchase at the fixture.

“In addition, more than half of shoppers are unclear what assurance marks actually mean.

There is a danger that rather than try to fathom the labels, shoppers may lose confidence in the whole category.

“Also, there’s the added complication that if we did import these products, domestically-produced meat would likely be at a disadvantage on price.”

Concluding, Swales outlined: “As a key driver of shopper behaviour, there may be calls for these practices to be introduced in the UK to allow farmers to compete on a level playing field.”