The NFU has sharply criticised some retailers for failing to stock British beef as the annual campaign Great British Beef Week gets underway.
There are reports that prime beef stocks in supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco are being dominated by Irish products, the union said.
It comes as a scaled-down Great British Beef Week (23-30 April) commenced earlier this week, marking its tenth anniversary this year.
But market disruption as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is having a significant impact on the sector which had already suffered a sustained period of low prices.
The closure of the food service sector has seen the loss of a home for a significant proportion of the higher value cuts of beef, most notably steaks and roasting joints.
Whilst there has been an increase in demand from retailers for mince and lower value cuts, this has not offset the loss caused by the closure of pubs, cafes, restaurants.
Amid the crisis the sector is facing, the NFU has called out retailers for their 'inexcusable' actions in 'failing to honour their commitment' to sourcing British beef.
NFU President Minette Batters explained that prime cuts of British beef are the 'highest quality and most valuable', and farmers depend on these being sold.
“At a time when retailers should be supporting British farmers more than ever and promoting these quality cuts of beef, it is indefensible that customers who want to support farmers are only finding Irish cuts on shelves in some stores."
She highlighted how Sainsbury's has a policy of sourcing 75% British beef: "There is no reason whatsoever that this sourcing policy should not be demonstrated in all their stores," she said.
“This week is about celebrating and promoting the incredible beef we have here in Britain. This is not what we are seeing from some of our retailers and both farmers and the public are demanding to know why.”
The Covid-19 lockdown means that sales of prime cuts of beef to the out of home market have completely dried up.
Meanwhile in retail, sales of mince have rocketed. When there is such an imbalance of supply, the NFU said it is 'critically important' for retailers to stock prime cuts of British beef so that the prices paid to farmers is not undermined.