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The BBC's Brian Milligan
"Supplies of British meat are in the balance"
 real 56k

Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 17:53 GMT
Meat crisis hits the high street
Butchers are being forced to put up prices
Butchers and customers face falling supplies and rising prices
By BBC News Online's Melissa Jackson

Restrictions placed on the movement and slaughter of livestock in response to the foot-and-mouth outbreak are beginning to make an impact on the high street.

Small butchers are finding their regular suppliers unable to keep them fully stocked and even when they do make a delivery, prices have gone up, which are being passed on to the consumer.

At Stenton the Butchers in west London, the phone has been ringing steadily all morning with customers asking if they have any meat on the shelves.

The answer has become routine for owner John Stenton, who specialises in free-range and organic home-grown meat: "Pork will be finished by the end of this week but lamb may hold out to the middle of next week depending on demand".


Such is this Fulham butcher's patriotism to British farmers he would rather shut up shop than sell imported meat.

He said: "No way am I going to sell African or Spanish beef.

Fulham butcher John Stenton
John Stenton: "It's a waiting game"

"I will buy in New Zealand lamb, but I won't buy anything else."

He has already noticed regular customers doubling and trebling their usual orders.

But at what cost?

He has seen the price of lamb shoot up by 20% in a week, which has forced him to increase his own prices.

Muslim festival threatened

London has a large Muslim community preparing for Eid, one of the biggest festivals of the year when families traditionally feast on lamb.

This year's festivities could be totally jeopardised and some Halal butchers are already telling customers their favoured meat will not be available.

The whole of Eid has been disrupted by the foot-and-mouth outbreak and a lot of my friends are very angry

Aziz Louchini, Muslim

Moroccan-born Aziz Louchini said: "The whole of Eid has been disrupted by the foot-and-mouth outbreak and a lot of my friends are very angry."

He explained that one family he knew had decided to leave the UK and travel to Morocco to celebrate Eid because they were not guaranteed any lamb in this country.

Since foot-and-mouth erupted he has given up red meat, switching to chicken and fish instead.


He is not alone. Joyce John, who was shopping in Shepherd's Bush Market said: "I'm eating more fish because I don't trust the meat.

"But if the prices go up because of demand I will challenge it. I will argue about it over the counter.

"I think it is just exploitation if they put the prices up."

More fish is on the weekly shop for Sharon Gardiner
Sharon Gardiner: more fish on the menu
Sharon Gardiner, a mother-of-four, who was also shopping in the market said: "I'm worried about what's in the meat.

"I think I will be buying fish three times a week now."

While consumers are heeding the warnings not to panic-buy, supermarkets are not taking any chances of meat stocks running out and contingency plans are already in place.

Sainsbury and Safeway are planning to import pork from Denmark and more lamb from New Zealand and hope to maintain prices at current levels.

But Tesco is not so optimistic, warning that if overseas supplies are required, it is likely that cost prices would be higher.

A gloomy picture is emerging on the high street as the UK braces itself for a further two weeks of quarantine measures.

But almost all are agreed it is a price worth paying to guaranteed safe meat in the future.

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