Instead of trying to match the cost of production with what people can afford, we should be working to ensure everyone can afford food full stop.
The drive to keep food affordable under exceptional market conditions where the cost of production is not being returned through the marketplace is rendering poultry meat businesses unviable.
Without a fair price for product, British poultry is at breaking point. With production beginning to scale back as a result, now is the time for Government to act on their commitment that farmers and producers feeding the nation will (as the Prime Minister has said) “have what they need” to continue to do so.
Access to safe, affordable, nutritious food is always necessary, not just in the face of a cost-of-living crisis, but the focus on keeping prices low in this climate is understandable. Doing so, however, fails to acknowledge large costs incurred elsewhere in our supply chain – energy, feed, labour, packaging, transport, and so on, all on top of ongoing Brexit and avian influenza challenges. Put simply, the price consumers pay for food does not reflect the cost of producing it. Such a system is unsustainable.
Focusing solely on keeping food affordable without a fair price for producers, combined with Government’s unrelenting drive for ‘growth’ with no demonstrable will to support poultry meat businesses and food security ambitions more widely, will not keep Britain fed. Instead, we will see production shrink and more people than ever priced out of British food and the quality it represents.
Low prices are symbolic of a far greater problem, whereby we need to have a conversation about the true cost of a sustainable food system – one that incorporates fairness, security, livelihoods, and overall supply chain resilience. Poultry is half the meat the nation eats. When it comes to ensuring our food security it is incumbent to consider not just how we keep food affordable in the short term.
Instead of trying to match the cost of production with what people can afford at the jeopardy of poultry meat businesses, we should be working to ensure everyone can afford food full stop.
That supermarket staff are using food banks, nurses are struggling to afford their shopping and farmers are scaling back reads like an abnegation of Government’s responsibility to ensure “farmers have what they need” to ensure a quality supply of British food.
British poultry plays a crucial role in realising a vision for a UK food system that feeds people, contributes to their wellbeing, tackles social inequality, and ensures a liveable climate for all.
But without robust mechanisms that ensure business viability, farmers and food producers won’t “have [the fair price] they need” to fulfil their role in society. Things need to change for the sake of British food and farming. The fact that now is the hardest time for Government to confront this problem is exactly why they should.