Written Evidence Submitted from the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA)(FS0052)


BMPA Introduction: As an industry association the BMPA represent the leading abattoirs processing cattle, sheep and pigs in the UK, the leading meat manufacturers and a diverse range of associate members. Our purpose is to represent and promote a sustainable, competitive and professional UK meat industry and to be recognised as the leading UK trade body dealing with all issues relating to the slaughter, processing manufacturing and trade in meat and meat products.

We are submitting evidence because the ongoing prosperity of our members relies on UK livestock farming and some of our processor members are farmers and therefore have an active interest in Food Security and Land Use.


Q1. What are the key factors affecting the resilience of food supply chains and causing disruption and rising food prices – including input costs, labour shortages and global events? What are the consequences for UK businesses and consumers?


Following discussion with numerous BMPA members we have found that the following are the primary factors affecting price and availability of food in the UK.


Climate change: Farmers are currently experiencing changes in weather patterns with livestock farm businesses impacted by drought conditions reducing available grazing forage and impacting on feed stocks for overwintering. As extreme weather events become more frequent the management of both water in terms of scarcity and excess cannot always be solved at farm level and requires urgent infrastructure investment from Government if we are to maintain current levels of food self-sufficiency. The recent widespread drought also highlights the importance of water resilience to meet the needs of the population.


Availability and access to labour: Skilled and unskilled labour shortages have been an ongoing area of concern for the red meat sector with BMPA raising our concerns on numerous occasions1 leading to animal welfare issues and a two year skills gap for butchery positions. The main drivers that have caused the shortages are government immigration policy, coronavirus creating an increase in workers taking early retirement or working part time and a lack of investment in skills and career development in the red meat sector.

1 New BMPA report offers solutions to workforce challenges - BMPA (britishmeatindustry.org)


Covid Recovery: As the UK public recover from the Covid pandemic the red meat sector continues to struggle. To ensure continuity and availability of supply to consumers during the pandemic the sector has encountered significant disruption and increased costs. The added costs of sustaining both domestic and export supply and ensuring carcase balance along with significant inflation of energy and fuel, labour, logistics, and the ongoing contraction of the hospitality sector have adversely impacted financial strength. The ongoing lack of confidence is affecting investment commitments to restore lost business efficiencies.


Ongoing Brexit Trade Issues: The UK Government has not yet resolved the irregularity of UK/EU border controls placing UK exporters at a comparative disadvantage to the EU. Since January 1st 2021 UK exporters have faced the full implementation of EU border controls which has led to significant additional costs and red tape. We know from BMPA members that many UK based red meat businesses have stopped exporting because the additional costs cannot be recovered.

The Government has failed to apply vigorous border controls on product entering from the EU although it continues to open the UK market to new food imports via its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) agenda. The livestock sector has been calling for standards to be developed to ensure that imports do not undercut domestic standards or jeopardise existing disease controls. Despite repeated government commitments that animal welfare, food safety and environmental standards would not be weakened, the government has failed to set a roadmap for industry on how this is to be achieved. With further FTAs planned it is vital that this system of core standards developed and upheld throughout negotiations.


Energy Costs: Gas prices have increased significantly in the last two years and as a source of energy to produce electricity there is a knock on effect which impacts the meat processing sector financially and operationally. As well as increased energy costs, the volatility of the market is increasing uncertainty for the red meat end to end supply chain.

As a key component of fertiliser production natural gas is also a source of food grade CO2. CO2 is critical in meat production as the preferred pre slaughter stunning method for pigs and poultry and in packaging to extend shelf life. The natural gas price hike led to a decline in fertiliser production due to profit loss which in turn triggered rises in CO2 prices. Uncertainty in the energy market is fuelling food price inflation with consolidation in production likely as businesses look to reduce risk.


Conflict in Ukraine: The UK does not export or import red meat products from Ukraine in any volume however the reduction in global availability of feed grains has pushed up prices impacting pig and poultry production costs. Ukraine is a key supplier of animal feed raw materials and can typically export 25 to 30 million tonnes of corn to the world market but the approaching harvest is expected to be less than half of historical yields. This contraction and the increasing costs of fertiliser for crop production is driving grain prices higher therefore subjecting animal feed prices to huge inflation.

Markets have reacted to the uncertainty of supply from Ukraine by seeking alternative supplies or alternative product formulations to mitigate the impact of the conflict. However, its important to recognise the supply gap is too large to mitigate completely and the conflict too unpredictable to make assumptions about future supply and prices for the medium term. Likewise, before the invasion, Ukrainian workers represented circa 60% of the seasonal workforce with their absence worsening existing labour shortfalls across the sectors.


Farm Subsidy Reform: The transition away from the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to domestic schemes in England assumed that production costs would fall and farmers would be able to increase their productivity. Global developments since the original DEFRA consultation in 2018 demonstrate that these assumptions are now unsound. The National Farmers Union (NFU) set out then the importance of farm businesses being able to draw down bespoke assistance from across a range of measures including productivity, volatility mitigation measures, risk management tools, and environmental measures and incentives. These assistance measures need to be available beyond the transition period to enable farming to be competitive, profitable, and progressive while producing food sustainably. Some BMPA members are involved in farming so as experts in this area we support the NFU’s position and any solutions they propose.


Consumer Behaviour Change: Recent increases in input costs are expected to be sustained for at least the medium term driving further inflation of food. It’s difficult to forecast future food inflation owing to uncertainty caused by recent global events. Any lack of availability of products from importing countries will have a bearing on prices and consumer choice with the current and likely ongoing food inflation changing consumer behaviour with shifts toward better value products. An example of this can be seen with the hard discounting retail chain Aldi now the fourth largest UK retailer. This growth is a clear indication that consumers are varying their buying behaviour.

In the meat sector the situation is further complicated by the requirement to manage carcase balance to control costs. To ensure continued carcase balance some parts of all animals are exported. Not only meat cuts which have low structural demand on the domestic market but also offal, hides and skins and other by-products. The price meat is sold at to consumers in the UK is affected by what return can be achieved for those items that are exported. The additional costs of export associated with Brexit cannot be recovered from the market as our competitors in the EU do not face these costs therefore these additional costs have to be recovered elsewhere, principally on the domestic market. This is an inflationary pressure which will certainly drive change in consumer behaviour.


Q2. What is the outlook for UK food price inflation in the short and medium term?

There is an increasing possibility the UK will fall into recession this year as the economy shrinks in Q4 2022 and continues until the end of 2023. With high levels of inter dependency between energy and food production costs the current energy prices indicate that processors are expecting continued inflation into 2023.

The recently announced energy bill relief scheme for businesses will provide support from further energy price increases through the winter when demand is high. However, given the scheme only runs to April 2023, as a short term fix processors will find it difficult to make any investment decisions. Longer term support beyond April 2023 would encourage confidence and further support business decision making and investment.
In general the recent increases of input costs are likely to be sustained through 2023. Additional inflation of production costs and therefore food to consumers is likely but it is difficult to forecast the scale or duration of any increases.



Government should work with industry to shape a longer-term energy resilience package beyond April 2023 to support decision making and consider broadening the scope of the measures beyond commodity energy costs to ensure inflation is controlled.


Support improvement in the transparency of domestic and international fertiliser and CO2 markets to ensure fairness through supply chains, market functionality and the ability of Defra to detect issues early and act.


It is imperative that the food industry has sufficient access to labour, not just within primary production but for the wider food industry to lift output, reduce costs and waste and allow farmers to plan for larger output in future.


The BMPA supports the NFU’s call for the Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA) to remain in place to protect the consumer and the supply chain from unfair trading practices:

“The GCA has made substantial progress in ensuring the regulated retailers are complying with the Groceries Suppliers Code of Practice. This can be demonstrated by the year-on-year decline of suppliers facing Code related issues, as per the GCA Annual Survey results from 2016 to 2021. Although the 2022 survey results showed an increase in suppliers who experienced code compliance issues, this is unsurprising given the UK is experiencing the highest levels of inflation in the last 40 years and highlights further the need for the adjudicator role. The success of the GCA has been thanks to its active interpretation of the GSCOP and hands on approach with retailers to ensure the code is not breached. Therefore, the current BEIS review which is questioning the future of the GCA is deeply concerning for the supply chain. The merging of the GCA into the CMA would dilute the power and effectiveness of policing the industry and its compliance with GSCOP. Now more than ever, we cannot afford for the role of the GCA to be diluted or worst-case scenario removed, when relationships between retailers and suppliers are under huge strain and the major multiples are launching their biggest ever price campaigns.

Q3. How are the rising cost of living and increasing food prices affecting access to healthy and nutritious food?

The rising cost of living will force many more into poverty and spending on healthy and nutritious food could significantly decrease. Many retailers are already reporting reduction in spend in the average weekly basket particularly in fresh produce with own label value ranges increasing in popularity leading to ASDA restricting sales of theirJust Essentials” range of goods (Sept 2022). Inflation pressures clearly reduce the available household budget to buy food to support a healthy diet. In times of financial difficulty food spend is the most likely household cost that can be reduced however it is well known that a reduction in food spend impacts both the nutritional quality and volume of food purchases forcing consumers to either skip meals or move to cheaper, highly processed food products.

Q4. How will the proposals in the Government’s food strategy policy paper affect:



The Government Food Strategy White paper acknowledges the resilience of the UK food sector during the Covid pandemic but there is little evidence that the Government proposes to maintain or improve food supply resilience going forward. In response to the Covid pandemic the Government convened a Food Resilience Industry Forum to address the potential shortages of food as a result of panic buying and perceived shortages and disruption within the food supply chain. This forum was shut down in April 2021 however due to recent events including economic pressures linked to the conflict in Ukraine there is a strong argument for re convening this forum to ensure that the UK’s food resilience and sovereignty continues to be fit for purpose and address the needs of consumers.


A significant and ongoing issue for meat processors is the cost and availability of CO2 which has implications for food supply resilience and animal welfare. The food strategy paper commits to work with industry to develop plans to bolster resilience of critical inputs such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and fertiliser. This will include a specific long-term plan on CO2 in 2022” In light of recent shortages and cost increases for CO2 the BMPA calls on Government to address the supply of CO2 in the medium to long term as a priority to address food supply resilience and the subsequent inflation.


The Government Food Strategy does not demonstrate the current resilience within the food supply chain and has little data on how the existing supply chains will become more resilient. To improve food resilience government should seek to develop a food sector that is sustainable, transparent and functions in a competitive marketplace without weakening the integrity of existing food systems with regular reporting to demonstrate progress.

To improve resilience in our food supply any new policy commitments should embrace technology and innovation to drive competitiveness and further reinforce our leading position as a low carbon livestock and food producing nation.


Although we have no opinions on the seafood sector we support the NFU’s position regarding the Agri Food impact of the Governments food strategy policy:


By investing in the Nation’s food production system, the Government can capitalise on the benefits which our agri-food economy delivers, whether in terms of food safety and production standards, environmental protection, or animal welfare.

Through government demonstrating support for domestic sourcing, confidence will grow between and within farm businesses, food processors and wider food chain operators. Collaborative supply chains can both drive market leading innovation and investment and can add a degree of security of supply as fluctuations of demand are able to be managed more cohesively. This means that driving domestic food sourcing can provide security and value to both the buyer and the end consumer.

Innovation must provide the ability for food producers to access the market and for the UK food supply chain to be maximised to allow us to deliver safe, traceable, affordable, nutritious food.


Healthy and nutritious food is a key objective of the Government’s food strategy with actions to provide access to healthy and nutritious food for all, however recent indications regarding the sugar tax, junk food advertising and BOGOF promotions are that many of these commitments will be delayed or scrapped alongside PM Truss’ criticism of state intervention to promote healthier lifestyles having previously said that “taxes on treats hit those on the lowest incomes” and that the government should not tell people what to eat.

In spite of this apparent policy shift it is important that the benefits of meat-based protein are not diminished. Red meat is one of the richest sources of essential nutrients such as iron, zinc and B vitamins in the diet, as well as a significant source of protein. Lean red meats can play an important part in a healthy balanced diet as they have a high nutrient density. This means that they contain a wide variety of nutrients in a relatively small amount of food.

Q5. Is the current level and target of food self – sufficiency in England still appropriate?


Due to the long term planning required to maintain self-sufficiency in the livestock sector and the requirement to export certain cuts and by-products to ensure efficient carcase balance and ongoing end to end profitability for red meat this question should be framed differently. Do we wish to maintain the current inventory of livestock and if so how do government support the red meat sector to deliver sustainable and affordable beef, lamb and pork products?

Government policy initiatives are needed to ensure UK farmers and meat processors preserve or increase profitability to allow ongoing investment in efficiency and sustainability whilst ensuring consumer messaging regarding the health benefits of consuming a balanced diet including moderate volumes of red meat are maintained. Included in this policy initiative there should also be consideration for improved access to skilled and unskilled labour and parity of farm assurance schemes between domestic and imported meat products.


Q6. How could the Government’s proposed land use strategy for England improve food security? What balance should be struck between land use for food production and other goals such as environmental benefit?


As the leading industry association for the Red Meat processors in the UK the BMPA recognises the importance of effective and appropriate land use to support domestic food production at a level that maintains or improves our current food resilience and sovereignty. However, due to the limited active land management of our members we believe the NFU are better placed to respond to this question and we fully support their position:


We welcome the aim in the recently published Government Food Strategy, of maintaining domestic production and the aims of the Agriculture Transition Plan (ATP) to support productivity and sustainable farming. Successful 
We also welcome the commitment to the overall farming budget and Defra should ensure the scheme does not become diluted through reliance on specialist advice or support from consultancy to deliver. Our farming members are seeking detail on how the ATP, and specifically the various elements of the Environmental Land Management scheme, will provide the necessary platform to underpin the sustainable and resilient food businesses we need, even though the overall commitment on budget is positively received.  


Farmers will continue to play a pivotal role in maintaining and enhancing our dynamic landscapes for future generations and we want to work with Government and other stakeholders to create a policy environment which enables them to do this.  However, farmers and growers are currently overwhelmed by the plethora of competing and sometimes directly conflicting demands on their land being proposed by Government targets, single issue group agendas and market forces. The challenge is how these various land-use demands co-exist, if indeed they are able to, alongside the primary objective of our members’ businesses to produce food, fuel and fibre for the nation and beyond.  

Land use is constantly driven to change over time in response to policies and markets and for this reason the NFU believes that our countryside has to remain a multifunctional and dynamic space given the finite land area of the UK and the importance of UK food security in volatile times.  Therefore, it is concerning to us that many Government proposals, such as those out in the recent Defra Environmental Targets consultation, appear to directly conflict with food production.  Some require a long-term or irreversible change to the productive capacity of farmland, such as tree planting, re-wetting and re-wilding. These proposals are particularly challenging to the tenanted sector who are land managers but not landowners.

We have called for a much clearer cross-government prioritisation exercise to be developed considering the broad spectrum of domestic and international policies. Crucially this exercise must address the compatibility of these policies to co-exist and their impact on food and energy security.  Therefore, the NFU cautiously welcomes the recent commitment by the Government to a Land Use Framework in 2023.  However, for the reasons set out above, our position is that such a strategy must be based on capability enabling owners and occupiers to make better choices focused on ‘sharing not sparing’ and not simplistic lines on maps dictated nationally. 

 September 2022