Minced beef square

When a rejoiner’s heid’s full o’ mince

FOR THOSE who don’t know her, Liz Webster is a keyboard warrior on behalf of the unofficial rejoin movement.

She is, if anything prolific, but what she pumps out is routinely garbage, often using badly worded and exaggerated media headlines that are soon destroyed when they meet with the facts.

Webster claims to be a farmer, although in 2019 she ran a recruitment agency placing nannies and household staff with families. Those of us (and there are many) who know real farmers also know they do not have the time to sit on Twitter all day and give interviews on TV and radio, all demanding the UK re-join the EU.

Nevertheless, her recent attack on Namibian beef exports is really beyond the pale – her highly visible ignorance of real life in Britain as well as food standards and trade agreements was again on display when she posted on X/ formerly Twitter, “Global Britain means risking your life every time you eat”. This time she was ‘inspired’ after reading the label on some supermarket minced beef that clearly stated the beef was from Namibia but minced and packaged in the UK.

So how was this life-threatening?

Well, of course, it’s not, but it plays to the rejoin gallery and is quickly retweeted.

The unvarnished facts

The UK has a trade agreement with Namibia; it is actually a continuity agreement rolled over from the EU’s pre-existing trade agreement with the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique. That means Webster’s precious EU also has a trade deal with Namibia, and the same process and packaging would have been possible before Brexit.

It is shocking how little the British middle class knows about the rest of the world’s food and agricultural standards. They also seem to know nothing about the work of the UK’s Food Standards Agency which regulates and ensures UK food safety, hygiene and standards – including protecting us from dodgy food and ingredients from the EU.

It is an irrefutable fact that the food scares of horse meat in Irish-made burgers (2012) for Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland – and the avian flu in turkeys from Hungary appearing in British Turkey farms (2007) happened while we were inside the EU. Remember,  there were no border checks on imported EU food, as there are now.

The lack of knowledge appears to be worst amongst EU Re-joiners like Webster. They have been telling themselves the UK has the ‘highest framing standards in the world’ for so long, they have started to believe it. But it just isn’t true. UK farming standards are fine, but they were designed to suit European farming practices and their outcomes are no better than many other food-exporting countries.

More relevantly, if you prefer solely grass-fed beef, then UK standards are probably not as good as many countries with more temperate climates, such as Namibia.

Webster and her followers will probably be surprised to discover the Namibian meat processing and marketing company, Meatco, not only has a subsidiary in the UK, the Meat Corporation of Namibia (UK) Ltd, but that its Windhoek Abattoir is already compliant with the British Retail Consortium Global Standards (BRC) and with the FSSC 22000 (Food Safety System Certification). The BRC measures ethical and fair practices, animal welfare and corporate social responsibility and has apparently awarded the Windhoek Abattoir a BRC ‘A’ grading. Namibian beef is not only exported to the EU, Norway and the UK, it is also approved for export to the US and China – all of which have tough food regulations and controls.

In Namibia and Botswana African cattle are grass-fed on the veld

Namibian cattle live on veld grass and are not given growth hormones or routine antibiotics, nor are they kept in sheds during the winter like we do in Britain. Meatco’s flagship Nature’s Reserve label is ISO, HACCP and Halal certified and can be traced back to the farm of origin. So why does Webster believe she would be risking her life if she ate Namibian beef?

Meanwhile, the hysterical protectionists happily eat anything from any EU country, mistakenly believing all EU countries have the same farming rules as the UK – but they don’t. Even within the UK, each home nation has its own rules, as agriculture has been a devolved matter since at least 1999.

Why we should be trading with Namibia

Namibia is a large but extremely dry country on the west coast of Southern Africa, it is home to the Skeleton Coast, popular with well-heeled British tourists (some of whom are probably hysterical protectionists). Its economy is dependent on trade: exporting diamonds, uranium, copper, gold, zinc, lead, fish fillets and meat – and importing oil, chemicals, vehicles and mining equipment.

The IMF estimates Namibia’s GDP per head  to be $4,786 in 2023, compared to $48,912 for the UK – more than ten times larger – so there is undoubted poverty in Namibia. Worse, the wealth is highly concentrated, with the gini coefficient for the UK being 0.326 while Namibia’s is 0.591, the second worst in the world. Gini coefficients technically range between zero – perfect equality, to 1 – perfect inequality; although in practice they range between 0.2 and 0.6.

Livestock farming is worth about N$6.3 billion (£270 million) to the Namibian economy. To put that into perspective, the UK subsidised its farmers to the tune of £3.7 billion in 2022. Yet still, keyboard warriors like Liz Webster promote fear of cheaper imports from Namibia, Australia, New Zealand and anywhere other than the heavily subsidised EU.

Webster may be surprised to know Namibia’s largest frozen beef export market in 2022 was EU member the Netherlands, then South Africa, then China. The UK was Namibia’s 4th largest frozen beef market in 2022, importing a mere 633 tonnes. Although in 2023 our UK records show we imported almost 1,600 tonnes of Namibian frozen beef.

Ironically, the UK imported much greater quantities of Namibian beef when it was a member of the EU: in 2013 we were their 2nd largest export market after South Africa, importing 3,087 tonnes of frozen Namibian beef. No doubt, the hysterically protectionist Webster, will be horrified by this news. But If Namibian grass-fed beef was good enough for us when we were EU members, surely, we can help out Namibian farmers now?

The average UK import price for frozen beef from Namibia was 20% less expensive in 2023 than the average import price for frozen Irish beef, the UK’s largest supplier, including transport costs. Import prices include cost, insurance and freight. Interestingly, Webster didn’t show the price of the minced beef she bought in Iceland in her Twitter post, but we can assume it was less expensive than UK or Irish beef which must have sparked her outrage.

Above, rejoined mince (the Tweet, not the beef)

Importing Namibian beef not only helps poor Namibian farmers trying to make a living out of rearing livestock, it also helps the many UK consumers who find the current extraordinarily high price of meat in the UK out of their budgets.

Self-obsessed Webster probably knows nothing of life for those on a below-average income in Britain (and certainly not Namibia) – just as she knows nothing about international farming standards nor of the work of the UK’s Food Standards Agency, so please stop listening to her.

If you appreciated this article please share and follow us on Twitter here – and like and comment on facebook here. Help support ThinkScotland publishing these articles by making a donation here.

Mincing beef image by moerschy from Pixabay

African cattle on the veld by Phoebe via Adobe Stock


Weekly Trending

Scroll to Top