By Kerry Maxwell, communications manager, British Poultry Council
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 direct result now is the time for Government to act on their commitment that farmers and producers feeding the nation will (as our 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. However, doing so fails to acknowledge large costs incurred elsewhere in the supply chain – energy, feed, labour, packaging, transport, and so on, all on top of ongoing Brexit and avian influenza challenges. 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 priced out of British food and the quality it represents.
The fact we are seeing more people than ever struggle to afford food, nurses living on a financial knife’s edge and supermarket staff walking into food banks, is symbolic of a greater problem, whereby we need to have an honest conversation about the true cost of a sustainable food system – one that incorporates fairness, security, livelihoods, and overall supply chain resilience. When it comes to ensuring food security it is incumbent to consider not just how we keep food affordable in the short term. Instead of trying to match production costs with what people can afford at the jeopardy of poultry businesses, we should be working to ensure everyone can afford food full stop.
British poultry plays a crucial role in realising a vision for a 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 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 the problem is exactly why they should.