Supermarket giant Tesco is to double the amount of fresh meat it sources in Northern Ireland.

Following on from his earlier pledge to work more closely with British farmers and have all of its chicken come from British farms by July, chief executive Philip Clarke said on Thursday that Tesco's new plan would see the amount of locally produced meat and poultry on supermarket shelves jump from less than 20% to more than 90%.

Speaking during a visit to Queen's University in Belfast, where he opened a new Institute for Global Food Security, Clarke said: "I am pleased to announce we are going to double the amount that we spend on buying fresh meat, pork and chicken from Northern Ireland farmers.

"Within the next few weeks we are going to be sourcing from less than 20% of the meat that we source locally to around 90%. And, we are not going to stop there. We are going to aim to get as close as we can to 100%."

Tesco already spends £500 million a year and stocks around 1,800 products from 90 Northern Irish suppliers.
However, after the horse meat scandal which has shaken consumer confidence in the food supply chain, customers are now more keen to know where their meat comes from.

"The food supply chain has got that bit more complicated and it leaves in it opportunities for people to be sloppy at best or to be fraudulent at worst. When all the inquiries are complete it is going to be very clear that there are elements in the supply chain who are seeking to adulterate products of all suppliers, retailers and manufacturers," Clarke continued.

"The work that everyone is doing now is to make sure that can't happen again, implementing the most comprehensive DNA testing regime that has been seen in the world."

Tesco also plans to provide extended contracts to give Northern Ireland farmers more confidence.

And in good news for customers, Clarke claimed the new quality-assurance measures would not push up prices.

"I don't really think they need to. I completely reject any assertion that cheap food means nasty food," he said.