Beef + Lamb NZ refutes lower standard claims

Beef +Lamb says New Zealand boasts some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world -...
Beef +Lamb says New Zealand boasts some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world - including farming outdoors. Photo: RNZ

By Sally Murphy 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has hit back at claims lamb here is "produced to potentially lower standards than in the UK".

Britain's National Farmers Union (NFU) made the claim when reacting to news supermarket chain Morrisons is to sell New Zealand lamb in 39 stores.

NFU livestock board chairperson David Barton said he hoped the supermarket dropping its commitment to sell only British lamb was temporary and that the trial would come to an end.

"Recently, the UK farming unions wrote to the chief executive of Morrisons and other top retailers seeking support for the industry, including a steadfast commitment to local sourcing in order to maintain food production across the UK and to safeguard our food security."

He said the decision was "disappointing" at a time the British livestock industry was under pressure and that New Zealand lamb was "produced to potentially lower standards".

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairperson Kate Acland refuted the claims. 

"We reject claims that New Zealand lamb is produced to a lower standard - we've been pushing back against that really strongly in the UK."

These sorts of claims can be really damaging, and it was simply not true, she said.

Acland said the NFU was referring to a report The Animal Health Development Board, in the United Kingdom which compared farming systems in the UK and New Zealand.

"The problem is they're not comparing like for like, so it looks at things like ventilation in barns. We don't keep our sheep in barns.

"New Zealand boasts some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and that was backed up when the RSPCA provided written evidence to the House of Lords which stated that New Zealand is the only country globally judged to have better farm animal welfare standards than the UK."

When it came to New Zealand lamb being sold in Morrisons, Acland said it was cheaper than locally farmed lamb because New Zealand farmers were efficient.

"It's nothing to do with lower production standards - it's just that we're really good at farming. We have great temperate conditions and things like sheep genetics and good pasture utilisation mean that we are really efficient producers of land.

"New Zealand and the UK have complimentary seasons and that means consumers in the UK can have access to the best seasonal products all year round - which benefits farmers in both countries.

"It stabilises the market, it supports price levels and it keeps lamb on the table of consumers over there," Acland said.