Supermarkets: What Price Cheap Food?

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Duration: 1 hour

The Big Four supermarkets are expanding at an unprecedented rate. It's being dubbed the new "space race", with Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrison's fighting for dominance on high streets and shopping malls across the UK. But how can they keep on expanding, and slashing our food prices, when we're in the middle of a global downturn?

In a Panorama Special, reporter Paul Kenyon looks behind the cellophane wrappers and the "Buy-one-get-one-frees" to examine the true cost of our cheap food. He visits the mega-farms coming our way from the United States, with cows being kept indoors and milked on giant "dairy-go-rounds", and pigs housed in "sty-scrapers". He also takes a look at space-age greenhouses where fruit grows without soil.

The Big Four's UK expansion has never really been charted, until now. Panorama has pieced together the location of every new store currently being planned and built.

And as the production costs of our food are driven downwards, saving us pounds during the recession, Panorama carries out pioneering scientific research to discover whether "Made in Britain" always means what it says.

  • Growth of the 'big four' supermarkets

    Growth of the 'big four' supermarkets

    BBC research has found at least 577 UK supermarkets were approved in the past two years, with campaigners concerned at the growth of the "big four" stores.

    Discover more of the BBC's in-depth research on supermarkets
  • In pictures: The future of UK dairy farming?

    In pictures: The future of UK dairy farming?

    Panorama went behind the scenes at a mega-dairy farm in the United States, similar to one which is planned to open in Lincolnshire

    View the picture gallery
  • Panorama goes behind the scenes at a mega-dairy farm

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    Panorama reporter Paul Kenyon takes British dairy farmer Tony Gillett to rural Indiana, in the US, to visit a mega-dairy farm similar to one which is planned to open in Lincolnshire.

  • Panorama explores the changing face of the High Street

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    TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Stephen Robertson from the British Retail Consortium talk about the changing face of the High Street.

  • Archive: The Cost of Eating

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    Today supermarkets face concern over the methods used to keep their food prices low. Nearly 40 years ago, supermarkets, suppliers and the government stood accused of allowing the price of food to rocket unchecked.
    In this 1973 film, Panorama investigated the cost of eating and found families spending almost half of their weekly income on food.
    This is an abridged version of Panorama: The Cost of Eating originally broadcast on 12 March 1973.

  • Supermarkets: What Price Cheap Food?

    Supermarkets: What Price Cheap Food?

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  • Panorama 2000 to 2008

    Panorama 2000 to 2008

    If you'd like to know more about Panorama programmes between 2000 and 2008, including features, transcripts, video content and more, please click on the link below.

    Browse the Panorama archive

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