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Supermarkets: What Price Cheap Food?

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Eamonn Walsh | 10:00 UK time, Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Big Four supermarkets are expanding at a rate never seen before.

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-free's" to examine the true cost of our cheap food.

He visits the mega-farms coming our way from the United States: cows kept indoors and milked on giant "dairy-go-rounds"; pigs in "sty-scrapers"; we already have space-age greenhouses where fruit grows without soil.

The Big Four's UK expansion has never really been charted, until now.

Panorama's 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.

Join in the debate and let us know what you think about the programme. Please leave your comments on our blog forum here.


  • Comment number 1.

    I will be interested to see this programme, it would be nice to think you may look at the cost to small British farmers who are being squeezed to destruction by the supermarkets. With 30-40 dairy farmers a month leaving the industry it's not surprising that dairy farmers will end up being the size of American ones as it's the only way any dairy farm will be able to make any money if supermarkets carry on paying these low prices. The supermarkets force milk processors to undercut each other and this ends up being at the expense of the farmer. 25% of farmers live below the poverty line, how do you think the global economic downturn will affect them when nobody will lend them any more money and they are forced to sell their farms to pay their debts?

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    About 8 years ago, I was interviewed for the Money Programme. When I said that prices paid to processors and farmers was totally controlled by the supermarkets, the director ended up in a big spat with Tesco, who threatened legal action if the comment was allowed to be aired. I had to verify that I had been told this, and explain my source. My source was reluctant to be identified, knowing that there would be reprisals if his name was mentioned, which point I did not pass on therefore allowing my comments to feature.

    I coincidentally had a meeting at Tesco HQ the next day. Not a word was said, despite it being clearly apparent that they had seen the programme. Is that bully boy tactics that were being used?

    Something else that came to light, through the same representative role that I held, as a farmer, was when meeting 2 top executives from one of the other multiple retailers - since taken over. They agreed with my analysis, after being somewhat taken aback by, that multiple retailers basically intended to vertically integrate farmers within their business, but without capitalising them or offering fair reward at all times for their supply lines.

    The antics they adopt our too numerous to mention, and the likelihood of finding many people who will dare to speak is limited. Only those like me who don't need to trade directly with them now are prepared to open up.

  • Comment number 5.

    Our mode of 'democracy' is likely cabable of creating a
    balanced-equation between our local farmers and other relivant institutions where-by; to work and share from the extra profits often announced by Lidl, asda, lord-sainsburys, morrison, tesco, netto, marks&spenser, 'etc' through the powers of competent personnel in the "sector".
    It seems natural; that 'market-forces' potray 'speed' in terms of business activities.

  • Comment number 6.

    Blimey this post is from the future:

    Eamonn Walsh | 10:00 UK time, Wednesday, 22 December 2010

  • Comment number 7.

    The problem is that people believe that food should be free, like air and water. They won't admit it though. They are prepared to pay a little extra if they think that the food has been produced by not destroying the environment and will show concern for animal health if reminded about it. But basically they will be shocked if the price of food goes up, but if a mobile phone costs an enourmous amount, because it has lots of features which they won't use anyway, they will think it is money well spent.

    The supermarkets are responding to public demand. I would be interested to find the percentage of average income is spent on food and compare it with France, Germany, Spain, Holland etc. The other anomally is that although we spend more and more time watching cookery programmes, we do more and more reheating of mass produced ready meals ie less real cooking.

  • Comment number 8.

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  • Comment number 9.

    I have refused to use supermarkets for over 8 years. The only supermarket I do use is the Cooperative, but I try to use small, independent stores first.I can honestly say the quality of food is better,there is less packaging and my food travels less miles and there is less wasteage. I have watched with amazement the advertisements on televsion in the last weeks as the big four fight for business by feverishly discounting prices. How can small retailers ever compete with this?In the last 8 years all the butchers in my area have closed, there is one remaining baker and one vergetable shop left.The price of alcohol is another contentious point. How can the big supermarkets sell 2 x 75cl bottles of spirits for £20. Is this responsible drinking? These items are surely loss leaders that entice consumers into the store.But, sadly consumers vote with their feet and I feel I am in a small minority standing against the tide.

  • Comment number 10.

    Supermarkets are in it for the money, pure and simple, and they make a lot of it. The reason is blindingly obvious; the so called bargains are anything but. They use every trick in the book. Totally ruthless; the bottom line trumps any and all other considerations.

    Unfortunately the clock is never going to get turned back. The Great British Public decided years ago what they wanted and now they've got it.

    Just wait until supermarkets have saturated the market totally and start closing stores leaving communities high and dry.

    The greatest irony is the brainwashed public truly believe that supermarkets are their saviour and provide 'choice'. The stark reality is that they are not and customers increasingly have less choice and are paying through the nose for their 'lifestyle' and the 'shopping experience'.


  • Comment number 11.

    I think that supermarkets are brilliant as do most of the population !Want a good deal ! --stay clear of the High Street because it's full of rip-off merchants and past it's 'sell by date' ! The supermarkets give great choice--great prices-- coffee-shops at terrific prices -dry-cleaning--free car parking-cheaper petrol---the list is endless and I could go on all day ! If the Supermarket is so bad, why is it so busy most days? As for the farmers! This is an industry that has had more subsidy than tongue can tell! This lot are well known for their support of the free-market,until they feel the effect of it themselves! Viva Morrisons and Co!--BUY ONE GET ONE FREE ROLL ON !

  • Comment number 12.

    We all talk about the big Supermarkets with discounted prices, Farmers who are hard done by, and the small corner shops, everyone is entitled to earn a living, and from what I have seen 1st hand the only Farmers that do have a hard time are the small family ones, the bigger ones do not suffer as much as they like to make out, I live in a farming comunity so know this first hand, yet they subsidies for one thing or another when what they do is a job just like the rest of us at the end of the day, if it doesn't work dont do it. Many many of us in this country have less money in our pockets and have to make every penny go that bit further, so if I shop at a supermarket I feed more for less, I like a bottle of wine with my sunday roast and would not pay the £20 for 2 x 70cl, to me that is too expensive and why give up on my only treat of the week, yes I feel sorry for the smaller business's which I do still support every day of the week for my family needs, just the big weekly shop is done at the supermarket there is a place for everyone.

  • Comment number 13.

    Supermarkets are a necessary evil of our modern life but we neednt let them dictate to us.

    The town Newport Pagnell is currently in a battle with Tesco who want to move in with a huge store and wipe out the high street. They have banners up claiming they want to work with locals and preserve the the heritage of the historic town, but as the above poster points our: All they want is the money.

    Supermarkets are bullies, driven by profits, clear and simple.

    It is hard to avoid using them, but we must all remember our local shops, whether they are the butcher, grocer or fishmonger (if we are lucky enough to have them) and support them before it is too late.

  • Comment number 14.

    If you want to know the real story ask a dairy farmer, current commoditiy prices for all milk products (cream, butter, skimmed milk powder, cheese etc) are all sky high in the UK, the EU and on the World Markets (see this link: https://www.dairyco.org.uk/datum.aspx ).

    Basically the situation is simple. The cost of producing milk in the UK is on average around 28ppl to 29ppl depending on how good the dairy farmer is (lets face it some are better than others). The highest milk prices being paid are around 28ppl - so barely enough for anyone to make a profit.

    The average milk price paid to farmers is around 24.5ppl - so most if not all are losing money. Commodity prices are sky high, so its not down to these markets. Supermarkets (expect Morrisons), say they pay a premium to their "dedicated pool of dairy farmers", but in reality this is a smokescreen.

    Dairy farmers sell milk through processors, and the processors have been squeezed so hard by the supermarkets that the base price they are paying the farmers is too low, so even with the "premium" paid by the supermarkets the milk price is still simply too low.

    Does it need to be?, Well my data shows the supermarkets are making around 35% profit on a litre of milk, and the processor around 3%, the dairy farmer - nothing.

    What would it take to fix it? - well between 2-4ppl, not alot really, if the supermarket gave up 5%, everyone could make a little money and the consumer would be no worse off. In fact the consumer would be better off, and so would the UK's dairy farmers and their cows. We would not need "super dairies", and the family dairy farm would be able to re-invest.

    What do farmers spend money on, well quite frankly its not Range Rovers!, they have not been able to afford these for years. Its actually better housing for the cows, improved welfare and better facilities to make the girls (cows) happier. The best way for dairy farmers to make a profit is to have happy, comfortable and healthy cows, and we have known this for years.

    Many dairy farmers look after their cows, better than they do themselves. They are after all the most important partner in their business.

    Lets hope in 2011 the "Supermarkets" see sense, maybe we should be asking ourselves how big these should get, rather than how big a dairy farm should be. After all, that maybe you guys can answer me one question and that is as follows;

    Question: How do supermarkets continually discount products in store, offering us as consumers even lower prices year after year, and yet at the end of that year announce even bigger profits?

    Answer: One suspects, by putting even more pressure on all of their suppliers

    Is this good?, In the long run, no its not. It is not sustainable even in the medium term, everyone (including the consumer) has to work ever harder, and the economy does too. There is less cash floating around, and we need the cash to lubricate the wheels of out economy.

    If the likes of the big 4 supermarkets announce yet bigger profits in 2011, it only means that all the suppliers (farmers included) have been screwed down on their prices and profits even harder. The consumer will not have benefited at all (in fact some of them may lose their jobs as more suppliers go under).

    The banks may have been involved in starting the financial crisis, but by golly the supermarkets are benefiting from it at everyones expense.

    Does nobody else out there see this for what it is?? - When will we all wake up and stop it, when we are importing all our fresh milk from Eastern Europe?

  • Comment number 15.

    Interesting to see comments on farming subsidies, I know alot of farmers and they hate subsidies, they don't really want them at all, they just want a fair price for what they do, rather than continually being offered below the cost of production.

    We could probably all save money by paying more for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread and pay less in Tax and NI!

  • Comment number 16.

    Lagoons of slurry for the mega dairy? -agghhhh I hear you say!, this is not a problem, its called Organic Fertiliser (Farmyard Manure), its better than Nitram or chemical fertilisers!

    Isn't this good old fashioned traditional farming - just on a bigger scale!

    Don't we crave for a bit of FYM on our allotments?

    An Hugh could take a leaf, it does not need to be organic to be good, it just needs to be good. Farmers need to be paid more then it will get better.

    If we want it better, we will have to put our hands in our pockets.

    Interesting on Pigs also, on this we have to go british - forget the danish if you want tasty high welfare pork!

  • Comment number 17.

    To all the General Public:

    RE: Routine use of growth hormones (or in feed antibiotics) are illegal in the UK, this simply does not and will not ever happen in the UK (and EU)!

    In the US they can use BST (Bovine Somatatrophin) to enhance milk production in dairy cows, again simply not allowed in the UK (or EU) and never will be.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    Panorama - You have hit the nail on the head. Paul Kenyan where is his medal.

    Yes-Supermarkets are stitching the farmers and many of their suppliers!

    Buy one get one free! - Yep stuff the supplier

    Buy one get two free - Yep really stuff the supplier harder!

    Refund and Replace - The supplier pays (even if the supermarket is at fault)

  • Comment number 20.

    Andy, the Tesco Dairy Farmer.

    Yep I know what your saying chap, but any adverse comment on supplying Tesco and we all know you would be off that contract quicker then you could say boo to a goose!

  • Comment number 21.

    Mega Dairy - WHAT?!!!?! I cant believe they are trying to keep cows just in sheds!! Hasnt anyone noticed that milk from cows who eat grass, tastes better!?!Keeping cows in sheds like they do with chickens is totally disgusting, calves and cows should be running a jumping around a field not kept in a tiny shed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Not only are some of the people on this programme supporting this disgraceful idea so that more farmers in Britain will have to get rid of their cows but are promoting it as a really good thing and saying that the cows are happy - what are they on about?!!! how can they be happy, only Americans would think of such a horrific life for beautiful animals and think its ok.
    I am appalled at this and I hope Others are too!!
    I dont know about the rest of you but i dont have a massive needed for cheaper milk... I am happy to pay for milk that has come from a happy cow, I currently only buy organic free-range eggs and I will be doing the same with my milk from now on!!
    As for the pigs... well its the same, I cannot believe this is how our country has gone and I wish they would stop saying that 'we' are demanding cheap food because no one has ever asked me, I am not the richest person but i dont mind paying a reasonable price for good food,its the supermarkets who want the cheaper prices not us.
    I never ever buy cheap meat, cheese and eggs but do buy the usual milk, but will be buying different milk from now on.
    Someone needs to stop this happening, its not right!!

  • Comment number 22.

    When it comes to making profits in the dairy industry, farmers are the biggest losers, and retailers are the only winner,

    DairyCo’s (dairyco.org.uk) annual dairy supply chain margins report on gross margins for retailers, processors and farmers, shows supermarkets are making growing profits from milk and dairy products. Sadly, the majority of dairy farmers continue to receive a price for their milk that sits well below the true cost of production.

    Over the 2009/10 milk year, the farmgate price dropped by two pence per litre (2ppl) compared to the previous year. Retail gross margins for both increased over the same period.

    During 2009/10 retailers were able to grow their margins at the expense of processors and farmers, who both suffered a fall in gross margins, and despite there being no increase in prices to consumers.

    The lack of an increase in dairy producers’ prices also backs up the NFU’s Great Milk Robbery report (nfuonline.com). This report suggests that money which should be returned to dairy farmers has been used to compete for retail business. The level of promotional activity in the liquid milk and cheese sectors has taken value out of the supply chain for everyone but the retailers.

    This all adds further weight to the argument that farmers should not be forced to pay the price of ruthless milk promotions, and perhaps indicates a market correction of inflated retail shelf prices.

    Supermarkets are trying to force down milk prices to farmers in the New Year - This simply must not be allowed to happen.

  • Comment number 23.

    watching the programme what price cheap food, i found it arwful to see animals in small surrounding just feeding and milking,also the pigs.they are not giving the farmers a chance and its not right for animals to be in that situation they are being brought up in.

  • Comment number 24.

    Great witty balanced report. I do hope that the christmas pudding superimposed over the logo was organically farmed and locally produced. Merry Christmas.

  • Comment number 25.

    Shocking, a story of unbearable pressure on our farmers who have little choice but to tow the line or lose out to bully boy tactics.

    Also the big four - especially Tesco's tactics and 'sweeteners' locally - the Gateshead example being clearly sweeteners put across to make the local planners 'accept' Tesco.

    We in Tenbury Wells are presently fighting-off Tesco's at the moment. They want to build on our old Cattle Market site - a site that's at the centre of the community on the town and should really benefit the community of the town. Interestingly though the populus locally is about 3500 and over 800 have registered a formal planning objection to the store. Tesco pulled-out first time around after the local Council [Malvern Hills] refused demolition permission of a local 19th Century Fever Hospital on the site - key to Tesco's building plans. This time the local Town Council has opposed the Tesco development, the District Council's planners have recommended rejection and many in the town are very much against it on grounds that it would rip the heart out of the town's small highstreet shops.

    As the new coalition government discusses the importance of 'localism' and reacting to local people's concerns we're hoping that this new thinking will be taken seriously locally and allow us to retain the character and local nature of our highstreet.

  • Comment number 26.

    The possibility of mega farms in Britian is horrifying. It the abuse of animals for food, without giving them the environment and respect they should expect to live and grow in. For animals to live in such close proximity to each other, means more antibiotics will have to be used to control disease. Pigs especially, I understand, do not do well living in such close confines. They become aggresive. And the thought that all the excrement can reach the aquafers doesn't bear thinking about. And what about choice? How can we have real choice if all the small independant growers/producers have no outlet, because small shops have gone. We frankly do not need vast quantities of cheap, bland food, that cannot possibly have the same nutritional value as that grown on good quality, organic matter fed soil. This is a blantant disregard for our earth and the animals, including humans. And all for the making of mega bucks.

  • Comment number 27.

    The big supermarkets know how to dish out short-term sweeteners to Local Authorities and the customer. However, the eventual consequence in my opinion is monopolies like the energy companies and similarly rapid-fire unchecked price rises once the mini-empires have been established. Already some large UK companies have far more power than the average individual MP. Wherefore goest thou, democracy?

  • Comment number 28.

    A significant omission from the documentary was any discussion of what the animals will be fed on, and where it will come from. The likely food stuffs will largely be soya from Brazil (grown on what was previously rain forest), and maize from the US and elsewhere with lax laws concerning the control of GM crops. Whatever foodstuff used will be grown using vast amounts of fossil fuels, imported using yet more, and fed to animals in factories, likewise with high usage of fossil fuels. Putting aside the issues of the total carbon emissions involved, and the potential of GM crops being used, the really scary thing that is being overlooked is that the world is running low on cheap oil. Without cheap oil these mega dairies will cease to be economically viable. And the real tragedy is we have squandered more than half of this most precious resource, and certainly all the easily tapped sources have long since been sucked dry - and yet we live as if cheap energy will be available for ever. It is clear it will not. Oil discovery and production has peaked, and Peak Uranium is apparently only a few decades away.
    If we had any sense at all as a species we'd realise that we need to save resources for their best use. Going for the mega-dairy system clearly is not good use of resources compared to cattle grazed on traditional ley pasture which of course grows in situ. Traditional ley pasture is more resilient underfoot which means the cattle don't have to be kept indoors for many weeks of the year, if any at all, and the need for winter feed is reduced. Traditional ley pasture also coincidentally reduces the amount of methane the cattle produce. Think about it - eating beans means farting! - and it has been show that certain wildflowers in a traditional pasture mix significantly reduce emissions still further, hence off-setting some of the inevitable greenhouse gas methane, which is widely understood to be such a significant contributor to the climate change process.
    If the mega-dairies had any idea of sustainability then they wouldn't be seeing the slurry as a waste product to be dumped to saturation levels, but would be endeavouring to compost it in some way such that it could become a useful soil additive, not a potential pollutant.
    We need to live within the planets means, which we clearly are not even coming close to at the moment. Was it eight planet earths, at the last count, that we would need to maintain our present rate of consumption of resources? It's probably more now.

  • Comment number 29.

    Consumers that are motivated by cheap prices should factor in how much food they throw away onto there shopping bills! How often in supermarket food short dated? And what about the cost of fuel to get there? And how often does somebody go into a supermarket for one thing and come out with a basketfull of goods they didn't need because of supposed bargains! What's cheap about that! I run a successful independent business but find it increasingly difficult to compete with supermarket prices, often people complain about something being a couple of pence more then they normally pay in a supermarket however they never factor in the convenience factor or the cost of fuel to drive 10 miles! and most frustrating is more often then not we are cheaper or the same price it's just we can't afford loss leading "but one get two free!" deals on products which will probably be thrown in the bin after a couple of days anyway!

    Lastly our nearest town a historic and popular tourist seaside port has two supermarkets and a highstreet full of charity shops! No Wonder the local economy is suffering Enough said!

  • Comment number 30.

    The problem is allegedly all down to 'us' preferring to shop at supermarkets and, if we refused to do so, the power of the supermarkets would decline. If only it were as simple as that! If Tesco's open in Seaton or Bishops Waltham, it wouldn't matter to Tesco's if they didn't make much of a profit initially, since it is all part of a larger strategy. However, if we assume that only 20% of people were to shop in Tesco's half the time, the revenue of the independents would fall by 10%. The independents cannot afford this and will go out of business, leaving the rest no choice but to shop in Tesco's. The choice of the minority therefore ends up dictating the choice of ALL of us.
    The other point about the planning applications for new stores which was not brought out in the programme is that councils have to oppose them with public money, i.e. OUR money. This is expensive and there is no guarantee of success, whereas the supermarkets have and do use the most expensive and high-powered lawyers. councils therefore need to ask whether this money could be put to better use, such as funding day centres.

  • Comment number 31.

    I fear we have seen the future of agribusiness to support the concentration of food retail in fewer hands – horror!
    Factory farming of chickens was just the start. It was shocking see it being used for dairy cattle now, and I was amazed that the Suffolk farmer forced to sell his herd did not condemn the mega-dairy he visited. He thought the cattle looked content. Surely not? They are penned permanently indoors, fed a strict diet of concentrates, automatically milked and their waste falls into a slurry ditch. They never move, so like battery chickens they will lose the use of their legs. They never go outside. It can’t be good for them, yet the ‘farm’ manager said they were properly cared for.
    Bah humbug!

  • Comment number 32.

    Part of the programme included a piece on Riley's Traditional Pork sausages and the Union Jack on the label having been removed follwing testing of the meat which was found to be not wholly from the UK. I really love these sausages and happened to have a couple of trays in my freezer so I went to check the label (you never know they might become collector's items). The wording at the side of the Union Jack says "Produced in Britain". I would have taken this to mean that they were made in this country not necessarily that the contents of the sausages were all from this country. I don't understand why they have felt it necessary to remove the Union Jack, in my eyes they weren't doing anything wrong.

    There are plenty of goods on our supermarket shelves that are produced overseas and imported to be sold cheaply. At least Riley's are based in the UK (I've checked their website and they're in Manchester) and they're providing jobs for UK residents. Why should they not be allowed to promote their produce as being made in the UK? Considering that their packaging does not claim that they only use UK produce I think it's unfair that they have felt it necessary to remove the flag but it will not stop me from buying their sausages.

  • Comment number 33.

    Additionally, the proposed Tesco in Tenbury Wells, Worcs was mentioned on the programme [in the context of Tesco 'sweeteners'] with: 'Tesco have even offered-up a local bus service'.

    To clarify [as I understand it] that this has been offered but only for a period of up to 3x years. Part of the reasoning behind it is to try to reduce the anticipated congestion the store will cause in the small town. The main route into the town is over the Teme Bridge - which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument [one of only 2 in the town]. Tesco have specified that this will be the sole access to the potential store for all of their HGV traffic and it's likely that the increase in customer traffic will largely use the same route too. The bridge is one of only a couple in the UK that isn't straight and has a bend in it. This causes anything of transit style van size or larger to stop traffic and make it back-up either into the town or on the other side which eventually blocks the main A456.

    Larger vehicles -HGVs etc- on the bridge normally cause a total halt to traffic [sometimes for 10's of minutes] while traffic backs-up to try and let them by. According to Tesco's HGV delivery plan submitted for the recent application, it works out to around 24 large [Tesco] Artic lorries or HGVs a week coming over the bridge - which will cause untold additional traffic congestion along with potentially increased car traffic over the bridge and in the town.

    An additional factor being that the old bridge is already suffering serious structural issues and in a report by Worcester County Council's Highways Dept in 2006: "Worcestershire's Bid for Capital Maintenance Funding" [now removed off the WCC servers and only available as a Google .pdf copy] states a 2005 Principal Inspection found

    "...it is likely that major repairs will be required to Teme Bridge, and these will form a high priority.."

    WCC commissioned a subsequent specialist analysis by a company called Fugro Aperio. Their report [Fugro Aperio's 'Inner Vision' Averts Traffic Chaos] added:

    "..least disruptive scheme of repair works for the Tenbury Wells bridge, which is to undergo a £1 million scheme [2006] of masonry repairs and concrete strengthening at a future date."

    Suffice to say, Tenbury suffered substantial floods in the following year [2007] putting the bridge under further strain - in fact the water went over the top of the bridge at one point. Pictures of the fractures and further details can be seen here: https://notenburytesco.blogspot.com/2010/10/tenburys-teme-bridge-in-crisis.html

    No substantial works have been done on the bridge since 1998. It's clearly in a very poor shape structurally. Substantial flooding in 2007 weakened the structure further. But.. Worcester County Highways Dept haven't raised concerns [in the latest application] about the bridge in the light of the massive additional loading in traffic if the store is agreed.

  • Comment number 34.

    What I found disturbing was the fact that the experienced Suffolk dairy farmer upon visiting the American Mega-Farm noticed that the cows seemed happy. Why? Could it be because they have known no other life?

    Have you tried searching for an item that the big 4 do not choose to sell? They are dictating what we eat by removing alternatives from their shelves.

    The programme taste test proved which food stimulates - IF we are given a choice.

    Are we going to fight for our farmers by supporting them or just sit back and watch those choices disappear; allowing our children and future generations to become those cows....

  • Comment number 35.

    I LOVED the bit where the ex-UK farmer said that the cows on the 24 hour milk turntable were "happy". These cows are stuffed with hormones, sir - they are probably stoned and that would account for what you say is the grin on their faces! That would account for the munchies too (they eat 100 lb of food a day). And, by the way, where does the 100 lb of food for each cow each day come from?

    I also agree with DJJ above. Enforcement of a condition of planning is NOT mandatory it is discretionary. If a developer does not follow through on a planning gain project it is up to the planning authority to decide whether to prosecute for enforcement. The decision can include whether it is too expensive to uphold the condition, which it often is.

    Also, planning gain projects not done are cancelled after either 7 or 10 years (I forget which) so if developers hold off long enough, they do not have to be done.

  • Comment number 36.

    I enjoyed the programme. We need to know the reality and need for modern food production. We should be celebrating the safety, affordability and and, perhaps above all, the real choices that it has made available to all, including even those few who may choose not to shop in supermarkets. Regrettably, the programme's only reference to chicken was factually incorrect. The film showed egg-laying hens in battery cages but the commentary portrayed them as meat chickens (which have never been reared in battery cages), mistakenly describing chicken as the 'original battery animal and the reason why some chickens are so cheap.' It is disappointing to see Panorama perpetuating the myth that meat chickens are kept in battery cages, when they are not.

  • Comment number 37.

    We must not follow the American example of factory farming and superdairies. People should pay a higher price for their milk, but will the 'massess' respond to this documentary? Did the 'massess' watch it? Animal welfare campaigners, farmers, residents, all seem to hate it. Supermarkets offering public services in return for planning permission is BRIBERY! Maybe if dairy farmers were given a fairer deal we stop making scapegoats out of the poor badgers. If the UK goes 'superdairy' I'm drinking soya milk.

  • Comment number 38.

    Supermarkets want to exploit the innate need of people to get more for less with their money, there are so many products and services and tasks which are 'necessary' to conduct a busy modern life, all that the average person wants is cheap food of uniform quality wherever and whenever they want it, you are buying not only food, but convenience. The supermarket offers all of this in truly astounding abundance, a seemingly endless selection of foodstuffs, goods and services all under one roof; It simply couldn't be better!
    I guess though, that anything thats 'cheap' is disadvantaging someone or something down the line. A cheap plastic toy will break within a few weeks and be thrown away, a cheap relationship built through wealth could break down within a few short years and a cheap dinner overexploits the land and livestock from which it came.
    Is our wealth really worth the damage that 'value for money' can cause?
    These questions I hope can be inculcated into the minds of people making choices about our world every day, people filling their shopping baskets full of choices and pivotal decisions.
    We should be using our considerable economic power to build a world which future generations will venerate us, not repudiate our recklessless.
    We need to demand fairly grown food, there is no shortage of calories grown around the world just an unequal distribution to the feeding of livestock and the developed world. We need to realise that a penny saved for us can mean a livelihood wasted for a dairy famer, a few minutes saved by going to a supermarket will kill local jobs, a few pounds saved on a company's IT contract means a workforce based halfway around the world.
    The world is globalising, and I see the rate of redundancy in local industries greater than the rate that we can generate products and services to replace them. Everyone needs something to do and the buying choices we make now can redress the balance of local and global concerns.
    This wouldn't be so much of a problem if we had unlimited energy supplies, and for that we can only currently dream.

  • Comment number 39.

    I've just enjoyed Panorama and their quest to attempt to portray that the proposed new mega dairy in Lincolnshire is bad for animal welfare. They went to the expense of flying a small dairy farmer ( who had been forced to give up milking his 70 odd herd on economic grounds ) to the US to see a mega dairy there. Said small farmer expressed the considered opinion that the cows all looked happy, quite the reverse of what the eco-fascists attempt to portray. At the end of the day it could be said that all animals actually care about is being warm, dry and have a full belly.

    The same principle applies to battery hens or pigs, yet politicians seek to theoretically improve animal welfare to appease the indoctrinated emotions of the average ten bob fat cat. As usual with the eco-fascist line its all about forcing low income families to pay more for their food, something many people already can not afford. High class restaurant owners can bleat all they like but the simple fact is that even if organic local food tastes better the basic fundamental rights principle of being warm dry and having a full belly applies just as much to humans.

    There are also advantages to large scale " industrial " farming in that waste excrement can be economically digested to produce methane gas, therefore reducing the potential toxicity of any slurry sprayed on nearby land. The eco-fascists alleged a plague of flies but no fly problem on the lagoon at said US mega dairy despite the 80f heat. Of course you could generate gas at a central location from manure collected from small farms but the transport costs would be enormous especially given the rate of road fuel duty in the UK.

    It would appear that transport costs are becoming the major factor inhibiting all types of small scale industry in the UK. Its probably just not economic unless you can fill at least a 25 ton trailer tanker from your dairy farm daily. It doesn't help when local authorities put weight limits on key routes either, in fact everything the eco-fascists promote on transport works against small business.

    Policy has to change if we want to retain small scale farming or any other small scale business at the heart of all local communities. Appeasing the eco-fascists could ensure that the " corporates " take control over every aspect of our life.

  • Comment number 40.

    I am surprised that the programme did not give more emphasis to the poor quality of supermarket food.
    I am 74 and I firmly believe that the present generation are totally unaware of how good food should taste. Supermarket meat like steak and roast beef cannot come anywhere near the quality of that supplied by a good butcher.
    Meats are pumped full of water to increase the weight. Bacon when cooked becomes a disgusting mass of emulsified fat.
    The comment near the start of the programme that supermarket milk was nearly as cheap as water made me laugh because it IS nearly all water!
    I cannot understand why they are allowed to describe a product as "Whole Milk" when it is obviously not. All of the cream and much of the fat has been removed. - I was brought up on a farm and I know what real milk looks and tastes like as will most of the older generation.
    Supermarket policy seems to be "If you can sell them water then do so".

  • Comment number 41.

    Re battery farming, it's just a thought but perhaps most of us could just eat only as much as we need to survive healthily, particularly eating less processed food? Have a look round your local supermarket and see the number of obese and grossly obese people (including, heartbreakingly, young children) and watch what they put in their baskets - this is stuff that it virtually empty calories. If we each just ate what we needed instead of what the supermarkets want us to buy battery farming would reduce dramatically.

  • Comment number 42.

    I watched this programme last night and found it quite interesting - however I was extremely confused by the title; "Supermarkets: What Price Cheap Food?". Does this make any sense at all? Maybe I'm confused but I just cannot see how it grammatically makes sense. Advice would be appreciated :P

  • Comment number 43.

    I watched the program with interest because we are one of many who have been powerless to stop planning permission being granted for a Class A1 Retail Superstore on a green field site in Hornsea on the East Coast of Yorkshire. Having raised a formal complaint against our council what interested me was the touching upon the subject of financial inducements / incentives / bribes "whatever?" offered to Local Authorities. I first worked in construction during the "Poulson" era and remember well the "gift" culture that ran through Local Authorities at that time. How is it possible to obtain the information concerning "investment?" by these supermarket chains in our towns and cities?

  • Comment number 44.

    Waitrose has kicked the New Year off to a great start with a positive move on milk price. One of the supermarkets has finally Recognised the increasing cost of milk production for the dairy farmer they have increased its milk price by 1ppl from 1st Jan’11.

    This gives a waitrose dairy farmer about 29.27ppl, which means they can actually make a profit, re-invest and look after their animals really well. (This is about 4ppl higher than average), it does not sound alot but for the farmer this is the difference between a profit and a big loss.

    The public should be campaigning for higher milk prices (and by that it is only 2 or 3 pence per litre (not per pint!), then you can have all the welfare standards you like!

    Interestingly, if you buy milk in Waitrose, it is about the same price as the big four?

  • Comment number 45.

    Please look at the youtube link below, see what what Sainsbury's are doing in Melksham wiltshire. It is long but please see it all. It explains a lot about supermarkets.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]


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