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If you pay peanuts, you'll get horsemeat!

SUPERMARKETS ARE not the 'blameless victims' of the horsemeat scandal – and if they continue to mislead consumers into thinking beef is dirt cheap, it is inevitable that there will be more supply-sector scandals.

According to Northern Irish National Beef Association chairman, Oisin Murnion, the single best way for supermarkets to ensure the quality of their beef products is to pay more for them.

"Beef is expensive to produce and expensive to process but most mainstream supermarkets discount beef, and beef products, so heavily that those who supply them face a never ending struggle to cover their costs," said Mr Murnion.

"The horsemeat scandal is a classic example of what happens when supermarket suppliers are squeezed in cost terms and consumers are encouraged to believe that beef, which they like and love to buy, is just as cheap as chicken or other less expensive meats."

"The NBA is not apologising for cheap horsemeat being substituted for much more expensive beef mince which resulted in consumers being misled. That was deceitful and unpardonable.

"But the association is saying if, for example, consumers are encouraged to believe they can buy a frozen beef burger for less than 10 pence when prime cattle are selling for an average £1200 apiece, and processors have to cover all the cost of reducing these animals down to the product in an individual retail pack, then no one can be surprised if short cuts are sometimes taken."

Mr Murnion noted that supermarkets had sought to restore consumer confidence by saying they will do whatever it takes to ensure the quality of their products.

"The NBA's view in Northern Ireland is that they can only do this if they accept that unrealistic, obsessively low, beef and beef product pricing encourages cost cutting in their supply chains and that the best way to ensure the quality of their product is to make sure they cover the full cost of supplying their preferred product in the first place."

"If this means relatively expensive beef and beef products no longer being used as a lead discount item then so be it. Most consumers know that beef costs more than chicken, or horsemeat for that matter, and many accept that in quality and provenance terms they will only get what they pay for."

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