February 27, 2013 / 9:16 AM / in 5 years

Tesco says will source more British meat

* CEO says Tesco will source “closer to home”

* From July all chickens sold in UK will come from UK

* Says can’t guarantee won’t mean higher prices

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, said it would buy more meat from its home market as part of its response to the discovery of horsemeat in beef products that has shaken consumer trust in supermarket supply chains.

“We’re going to bring meat production a bit closer to home. We do buy some, particularly for our frozen products, out of Europe, and as we can we’ll bring it closer to home,” Chief Executive Philip Clarke told the BBC’s Today radio programme.

Clarke said Tesco would seek more collaboration and partnerships with British farmers.

He said that from July all chicken sold at Tesco’s UK stores would come from British farms.

Tesco was one of the first grocers to be hit by the scandal last month when tests carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) on a beef burger product it sold found 29 percent horsemeat.

Earlier this month Tesco found horse DNA exceeding 60 percent in some of its own-brand frozen spaghetti Bolognese meals.

Clarke has responded with a more stringent product testing regime and a pledge to offer customers insight into Tesco’s global supply chain.

“The testing regime is intended to ensure that if it is not on the label it is not in the packet, if it is beef, it is beef, and nothing else,” he said.

He could not guarantee “right now today” that all of Tesco’s products contain exactly what is on the label, but “that is our objective”.

The CEO also said he could not guarantee a more rigorous meat testing and policing regime would not mean higher prices for consumers.

“I hope that it doesn’t mean price increases, but I can’t stand here today and tell you that it won‘t,” he said.

Those comments echo those made last week by Andy Clarke, CEO of Asda, Britain’s No. 2 grocer.

However they contradict a Feb. 21 statement from Philip Clarke who was adamant raising standards “doesn’t mean more expensive food.”

Later on Wednesday Clarke will address the NFU farmers union annual conference in Birmingham, central England.

NFU president Peter Kendall welcomed Clarke’s commitment to increase British sourcing.

“It’s really great that Tesco are making a commitment, it’s going to be a long project, but I‘m telling you the young farmers, the farming industry, are up for meeting this challenge,” he said.

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