Meat tax idea should be given the chop, say Shropshire butchers
Calls for a 'meat tax' have been given the short-shrift by butchers in Shropshire, who warn that it could have the opposite effect of what was intended.
A report by experts at Oxford University says putting hefty taxes on processed meats could help save 6,000 lives a year in the UK.
But the butchers in the county have poured cold water on the claims, warning the extra cost could force people to switch to cheap, mass-produced meat which would be less healthy.
The study, carried out by the university's Nuffield Department of Population Health, said new taxes could also save the UK economy £700 million in healthcare costs.
Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann suggested a tax rate of 79 per cent on processed meat, such as sausages and bacon, and 14 per cent on red meats such as beef and pork.
But Kay Badley, who runs G N Badley meats in Trench, believes such a tax would be totally unwarranted.
She said it was more important to be looking at the quality of the ingredients that went into food products in the first place.
"My fear is if they did this, people would start using cheaper cuts of meat, and having more things put in to make them taste good," said Mrs Badley.
"As far as we're concerned, we know where our stuff comes from, we use the best quality you can get.
"If people were encouraged to come to a good family butcher, they would be eating better quality food without all the e-numbers."
Mrs Badley said the important thing was that red and processed meats should form part of a balanced diet.
"Don't sit down and have a plate of sausages, but have a couple of sausages and vegetables."
Charlie Spencer, 28, is the owner of Keith Alderson butchers in Bridgnorth.
He said such a tax would have a devastating impact on the butchers trade, and could have the opposite effect of what was intended by driving people to switch to supermarket meat.
"It's absolutely ridiculous," said Mr Spencer, who recently bought the business off his former employer Keith Alderson.
"People have been eating meat for thousands of years.
"If you have a balanced diet of meat and vegetables you won't go far wrong, as long as you're eating quality assured meat."
He warned it was small businesses like his that would be particularly vulnerable.
"Butchers' shops are shutting like there's no tomorrow, it's being going on over the past 10 years."
The study found meat taxes could save an estimated 220,000 lives globally by 2020 and reduce healthcare costs by £30.7bn.
Consumption of red meat such as beef, lamb and pork has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
Scientists wanted to calculate the level of tax that would be required to make up for healthcare costs associated with eating meat in 149 regions around the world.
The likely impact of a meat tax on death rates due to chronic disease was also estimated.
Consumption of red and processed meat was likely to cause 2.4 million deaths per year by 2020 and cost the global economy £219 billion, said the report.
The amount of meat tax required to make it effective varied from country to country.