The National Farmers Union has a major beef with the government about the possibility of chlorinated chicken being sold in post-Brexit Britain.
The president of the NFU, Minette Batters used her New Year message to urge the government not to “betray” British farmers in future trade deals with countries with lower standards in their agricultural sectors.
Batters said the hard work of UK farmers to achieve some of the “highest standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety in the world” was at risk, if products such as chlorinated chicken and hormone fed beef were allowed to be sold in the country.
Risk betraying British farmers’ values
“Our farmers have worked hard to earn this place on the global stage and are rightly proud of their reputation,” said Batters.
“It is imperative that our food values are upheld as we enter into international trade negotiations with parties such as the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
“We cannot risk betraying these values by allowing food imports such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef – food that has been produced in ways that are illegal here – on to our supermarket shelves.”
Farming and climate change
The NFU president said their top priority for 2020 was to secure a trade deal with the European Union that “supports a profitable and sustainable farming sector” and added the organisation will continue to work with the government to combat climate change.
The road to net-zero emissions in agriculture was, Batters said, full of opportunities for farmers as she pointed to the NFU’s ambition to achieve the target by 2040 – a decade earlier than the commitment made by Theresa May earlier this year in the final days of her premiership.
The NFU would work with the government to make sure the post-Brexit Agricultural Bill will have the incentives for farmers to reduce and cut their emissions.
A government spokeswoman said the Bill will set out the “plans to reward farmers for enhancing our natural environment and safeguarding the nation’s high welfare standards.”
Growing demand for British produce
The spokeswoman said the government “will always back Britain’s farmers” and ensure “they can seize the opportunities presented by Brexit” which includes “taking advantage of the growing global demand for our great British produce.”
The spokeswoman added that the government has made it clear they “will not compromise any of our high environmental or animal welfare standards when we have left the EU.”
ERG – it’s just ‘clean chicken’
The EU banned chlorine-washed chicken because of animal welfare concerns and the issue around it has continued to feature in discussions about trade deals with the US, post Brexit.
In 2018, the Conservative MP Steve Baker – a member of the hardline European Research Group – insisted chlorine-washed chicken was just “clean chicken” and told the BBC “if you go over to the US and raise this issue of chlorinated chicken nobody knows what you’re talking about because it’s just not an issue”.
The EU ban on US chicken was put in place in 1997 and the chief executive of the British Poultry Council Richard Griffith said the US practice of washing the chicken’s carcass with the chemical hides “the shortcomings in their production methods and belies their attitude both to food safety and being open with consumers.
“It seems that the US, even with growing scientific evidence, is still trying to offload food on us of higher risk and lower quality than our own.”