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It's a different meaning of "eat local."

Mike Pomranz
Updated May 24, 2017

The Brexit vote proved that a majority of Brits were interested in reestablishing their national identity from the European Union. Now, one major British grocery chain is seeing if they can use a similar nationalist sentiment in the meat department to garner favor from shoppers by promising to only sell fresh meats sourced from the United Kingdom.

British chain The Co-op announced the decision to stock only homegrown fresh meat this week, claiming the new policy at its 4,000-plus locations will make it the first national retailer to have such a commitment. Though going a more local route may create a nice narrative, the British newspaper The Independent reports that the grocery chain also made the move to save money on import costs which have doubled to more than £6 billion (about $7.75 billion) per year in the past decade.

“British consumers will be shocked to see how meat imports have grown while at the same time retailers hang out the bunting and claim to back British farmers. Only the Co-op offers 100 percent British fresh meat all year round and not just in the meat cabinet but also in our sandwiches, our pies and our ready meals.” Jo Whitfield, Co-op’s retail chief executive, was quoted as saying. “We can do this because we’re owned by members not shareholders and can invest long-term in what matters to communities, not what provides the fastest shareholder return. I call on other retailers and food providers to do more to help our farmers, particularly as they head towards uncertain times.”

The Independent points out that The Co-op’s decision also fits the narrative of a recent report commissioned by another British supermarket chain, Morrisons, which suggested that UK grocers have a lot of reasons to look more locally for all sorts of products. That report cited everything from climate change to the election of Donald Trump as examples of potential volatility in the food supply moving forward. So The Co-op’s decision may actually be a growing trend in Great Britain.