The Livestock Auctioneers' Association Limited (LAA)

Livestock markets role in regaining shoppers' trust

11th March 2013

The Livestock Auctioneers Association has said auction markets have a vital role to play in restoring shoppers' trust in the food chain.

Chris Dodds, Executive Secretary of the LAA, said the horse meat scandal had damaged consumer confidence in the food chain, but had also presented an opportunity to regain trust by highlighting local sourcing and the quality of British produce.

"Trust in the food chain has undoubtedly been hit by the horse meat scandal but there is evidence to suggest that there is an increase in demand for beef from trusted sources. Butchers throughout the country have reported a higher demand for beef in particular, and this is having an impact on demand at the auctions," he said.

"Livestock auction markets are transparent. Suppliers and retailers can see what they are buying and they know where it has come from. There is an obvious advantage for them in being able to reassure their customers about the origins of their meat," he said.

A tracking survey conducted by consumer goods specialist IGD found that consumer trust in the food industry was impacted in January this year and continued to fall during February.

Michael Freedman, shopper insight manager at IGD, said: "One of the key changes that shoppers would like to see in order to regain trust is to give more attention to food origin and in particular, more local and British products and ingredients."

Mr Freedman said there was an ongoing trend with consumers becoming more interested in the origins of their food year on year, and there was strong support for the British farmer.

"For retailers, it's never been more important to showcase your brands' local credentials where possible, providing clarity of food sourcing and explain in a compelling way where the product has come from and how it has been produced," he said.

Bob Mosley, of Cornwall-based auctioneers Lodge and Thomas, said the outlook was encouraging for farmers because he believed the horse meat scandal would affect the proportion of meat going through butchers' shops compared with supermarkets.

"We have a large number of butcher customers in Cornwall and they are definitely seeing a big resurgence in the number of people coming into their shops, and we are definitely doing more business with them. There is a real groundswell of confidence in the business at the moment," he said.

Mr Dodds said: "IGD's research has shown that the consumer trusts the British farmer, so retailers need to be as closely connected with this source as possible. The livestock markets in the UK provide that link, and we are willing to work with others in the food chain to strengthen consumer trust in the industry."