Global Perspective

European meat trade leaders are in Edinburgh this weekend to attend the EU's top international meat conference and Agriculture and World Trade is a keynote subject.

Food Safety is another important item which will be given an airing.

The UK retail perspective will be presented by Chris Brown who is the director of ethical trading for Asda, one of the companies targeted by farm activists for offering imported beef. It will be interesting to see if the same debate takes place because in the distant past the very large retailers were very big users of imported beef and lamb, which were essential to keep the nation properly fed. In those days farmers here seemed to be happy to see their wares being sold alongside imports.

Beef seems to be the main cause of friction today with claims that the standards of husbandry in some of our traditional supplying countries do not equate to those in the UK. This is always a very subjective argument because the weather patterns and feed programmes are bound to be different wherever you go - indeed some would argue that they even differ within the British Isles.

One of the more recent challenges has been food miles. The sheer environmental cost to the world in shipping food across the oceans. However if you look close enough at the overall picture you might be surprised at what you find. Research in NZ shows that lamb can be grown there and shipped to Britain for a quarter of the energy costs of UK lamb!

A report released by NZ Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton says that the food miles concept is too often promoted by people motivated by self-serving objectives rather than genuine environmental concerns.