Independent retailers are looking to promote their locally-sourced chicken following the 2 Sisters food safety allegations.
The 2 Sisters Food Group plant in the West Midlands is being investigated by the Food Standards Agency after workers were allegedly found to be tampering with food safety records.
Simply Fresh retailer Simon Biddle, owner of Biddles Convenience Store, in Redditch, Worcestershire said it highlighted the importance of his locally-sourced chicken, and questioned whether the alleged practices at 2 Sisters were more widespread.
“We try and locally source all of our meat, as much as we can, and spend a lot of time finding local suppliers. In some ways it is a good thing for us that all of this has come out, because they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” he said.
“It could help us, but how many more companies are out there trying to save costs and doing exactly the same thing? If you look through our fresh stuff, our cooked and fresh chicken is all local. I think that is a good USP for independent stores to have.”
Phil Butler, owner of Spar Bruton in Somerset, offers a traditional butchers in his store and knows where all his chicken is sourced from.
He said: “We only have local chicken in our store and we don’t even stock any pre-packed Spar chicken. We used to be a traditional butchers so all our meat offering is sourced locally.
“Even local produce you have to be careful with, because just because it’s down the road doesn’t mean it’s the best produce. Those shops local to the 2 Sisters plant can’t trust the products they are getting, even though it’s local to them.”
He added: “I’m lucky that it doesn’t affect me. Some local customers will want to come to my store and buy their chicken here because they know we can answer their questions and reassure them. We know all our farmers by name.”
Jai Singh, owner of Go Local Extra, in Sheffield, is using social media to make customers aware of the 2 Sisters allegations and reassure them that his range is local and high quality.
He said: “The situation is worrying because customers are mostly concerned with price. What concerns use first of all is how customers react. When they shared the video of the allegations on Facebook, I saw an opportunity to take advantage and show how different our range is.
“We get our chicken from a local butcher, called Patterson’s Butchers, which is only about two miles away from the store. If my main stock came from another source then I would be concerned.”
Jai added: “Until we get more information, we will continue to champion our local supplier and range of chicken so that customers know where everything has come from. We can trace all of our products and know where our meat has come from.”
Dee Sedani, owner of two One Stop stores in Derbyshire, is happy with the own label chicken range in his stores.
He said: “We only stock the One Stop range of chicken and haven’t heard about anything being affected. The range offers more control and One Stop know where the products have come from. We don’t get involved in the supply chain and getting the range from One Stop gives us more confidence in the kinds of products we offer to our customers.”
The Guardian and ITV claim workers at the 2 Sisters West Midlands plant changed the kill dates on chicken, mixed old meat with new and repacked unsold produce, leading to some products being sold to consumers out-of-date.
2 Sisters produces a third of all poultry products consumed in the UK and the plant has now suspended operations. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Aldi and Lidl have stopped buying chicken from the group following the allegations.
Symbol groups and wholesalers have sought to reassure their customers over their suppliers. A Bestway spokesman has confirmed that the group is unaffected by the claims, both “from a retail and catering point of view”.
A spokesperson for Costcutter said: “We can confirm that Costcutter Supermarkets Group do not use any product from 2 Sisters Food Group for our independent fresh chicken range. Our supplier is Moy Park which was audited by our Technical Partner MNGP, in August 2017, and was awarded an A+ with no observations of the practices highlighted at 2 Sisters.”
Booker has also stressed that its chicken is not supplied by the 2 Sisters Food Group.
A spokesman at Spar said: “On a National basis we do not use the company implicated in this undercover investigation. All Spar brand suppliers are regularly audited to ensure they comply with the high standards that we would expect.”
A Nisa spokesman said: ”Our own label Heritage fresh chicken is sourced from a supplier where all of the products come from their own vertically integrated supply chain. This allows them to ensure that they operate to the highest standards at all times, and to be confident in the procedures in place at each stage of their process. Food safety is of paramount importance and our supplier operates a robust system of procedures and processes to allow the safe production of quality products at all times.”