Key questions remain unanswered weeks into horse meat controversy
All this publicity must have been as welcome as a hole in the head to the media-shy Larry Goodman. To the general public, his name is synonymous with the Beef Tribunal, which uncovered irregularities in his business and cost taxpayers millions. Some people were surprised to learn he was still in the beef trade, let alone running a business with a turnover of more than €2 billion.
“Larry Goodman is not the big bad wolf that some people like to portray him as,” says one source. “He has built up a long-standing reputation with retailers in the UK and has maintained it through being dependable. Tesco needs him as much as he needs them.”
He also has a good track record with farmers. “They might argue on price but he always pays on time.”
Almost three weeks after the burger story emerged, his company still has not answered key questions. Why did Silvercrest source the beef product in Poland? By doing this, it was flouting its agreement with Tesco that meat in its products must come from a list of approved suppliers.
Did it think this would never come to light during the various audits by Tesco? It had been using the Polish product for up to a year without alarm bells ringing, according to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.
While details of the agreement between Tesco and Silvercrest are not known, it’s likely that the retailer only audited Silvercrest, and not Silvercrest’s suppliers.
The plant was audited to British Retail Consortium standards, which are higher standards than EU food regulations, yet that did not prevent this incident.
Silvercrest says it had used the imported beef product because it was not available here. Given that Ireland is the largest net exporter of beef in the northern hemisphere, it seems strange that any beef product would have to be sourced abroad, unless it was purely a matter of cost.
ABP’s website describes Silvercrest as “the lowest cost producer of frozen meat products in the British Isles, thanks to our state of the art facilities, large-scale operations and many years of experience in quality processing”.
Did Tesco never wonder how Silvercrest could produce eight burgers for not much more than a euro? Tesco’s decision to introduce DNA testing across its meat products will probably be copied by many other supermarket chains, and while it says it will bear the cost, farmers and consumer groups believe they will ultimately end up paying.
And when the legal writs start flying over the millions of euro of lost trade, who will ultimately pick up the tab?