August 12, 2020

Angela Merkel’s Government’s ‘war’ against “cheap meat”


It only takes two pages of a leaflet with the offers of the Lidl supermarket chain in Berlin to realize that meat is one of the star products. It happens, especially, now that in good weather you can make barbecues outdoors.

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“Everything is still at a good price,” reads the center of the couple of pages devoted to the meat of the bid document. The cheapest are chicken fillets. About 450 grams cost the consumer 2.84 euros. Lidl’s competition, other supermarket chains specialized in super-offers such as Aldi or Netto, offers the same type of prices and products in its prospects.

But those offers are more than “good price” meat. For Thomas Bernhard of the Union for Food, Consumption and Hospitality (NGG), these reduced prices are symptoms of the “sick system” under which meat is produced in Germany today.

“The meat industry is ill because it is aimed solely at producing as cheaply as possible and, in this context, job security conditions and the situation of workers are being completely ignored,” Bernhard says. eldiario.es.

The multiplication of coronavirus outbreaks in German slaughterhouses since mid-May, a problem that has reached alarming levels after recently registering 1,550 positive for coronavirus in a slaughterhouse of the Tönnies company in Rheda-Wiedenbrück (West Germany), has made visible the situation that they have been denouncing for years in NGG.

In this union organization they do not hesitate to relate the working conditions with the low prices for meat that Lidl, Aldi and company offer week after week in their prospects.

“In Germany, meat, in general, is too cheap. A good part of the problem is in supermarkets. They do not want to pay more for meat, although it also happens with other products. The shops want to have cheap meat for sale and they negotiate prices very bass “, explains Bernhard. “The slaughterhouses from which this meat comes sell at low margins, which then results in these poor working conditions,” he adds.

In full commotion by the outbreaks of the slaughterhouses, the German Minister of Labor, Hubertus Heil, has managed to implement a reform to end precarious contracts in the sector starting next year. To this offensive in the sector has been added with another message the Minister of Agriculture, the Christian Democrat Julia Klöckner.

Cheap meat on a daily basis “is not a right”

For her, Klöckner said in a recent interview with the conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, there is “no right to eat cheap meat every day”. Lidl, Aldi and others must have been considered alluded to. Above all, because Klöckner’s ministry is “studying the extent to which advertising with meat as a claim can be legally stopped.”

Klöckner acknowledges that the problem in the sector is, fundamentally, that “with meat, the price of the product does not correspond to its” real value. With “a few pennies a hundred grams of poultry meat, how can a family live on that?” Asks Klöckner. According to the estimates that are made these days in the sector, for each euro of meat that is sold, only 20 cents will feed the ranchers.

Klöckner, in her childhood raised on a farm, is now working on a personal crusade aimed at improving the living conditions of farm animals, something associated with higher costs for German consumers. This particular war on cheap meat is criticized for being too late.

The “smoke” of the Minister of Agriculture

In Germany’s meat industry there are some 200 million animals, including pigs, poultry and cattle. Animal rights organizations warn that 25% of the meat industry’s products come from sick animals.

This does not prevent the Germans, on average, from eating 60 kilos of meat a year. “It is more than double what the German Food Society advises,” he recalled in his edition of two weeks ago the weekly Die Zeit in a very critical profile about Klöckner. Traditionally, meat consumption in Germany has been associated with prosperity, well-being and health.

Bernhard, the NGG trade unionist, is one of those who do not believe in the battle being waged by Chancellor of Agriculture Angela Merkel. “The minister’s business is smoke. If you really wanted to make meat a more expensive product but with greater respect for living conditions, animals would have to go through much more than what is being talked about,” says Bernhard.

It refers to the minister’s initiative to create stamps for meat products that inform about the welfare of the animals from which these products come. For the moment, and after two years as head of Agriculture, Klöckner has managed to have these stamps for the packaging of pork. Stamps for other animals are also supposed to arrive.

300 million for the improvement of animal conditions

In German supermarkets, for years, it is common to find meat with the organic product seal. This indicates that they come from animals that lived on farms where the conditions are significantly better than those of the meat on offer.

“Organic” birds, for example, have more room to live than those that are not. They live at four per square meter. Maids under non-ecological criteria can be up to fifteen per square meter, as explained on German public radio-television ARD. For this reason too, the breast of these “organic” birds can reach a price of 30 euros per kilo when the others pay 5 euros per kilo.

Beyond the idea of ​​stamps on meat packaging, Klöckner has put 300 million euros on the table from the latest stimulus package launched by the coalition government Angela Merkel so that producers can invest in improving the animal conditions. However, according to Bernhard, that money “does not change anything.”

“Things can really be changed with new laws. But Klöckner is not talking about new laws,” laments the unionist. In his view, money is not enough treatment to cure the disease afflicting Germany’s meat industry.

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