Meat of the Matter: After the Brexit

By Dan Murphy 

The aftermath of the United Kingdom’s historic vote last week to leave the European Union has created a tsunami of reactions and results.

The British pound plunged to its lowest level since 1985, The New York Times reported, as “investors fled risky assets” in favor the dollar and the yen.

“Global markets are on a wild descent,” the newspaper reported. “Investors gaped at this major refashioning of the global landscape and decided it looked perilous — or at least so pockmarked with uncertainty that they preferred to pull their money out of riskier corners.”

Like the stock market.

The Brexit vote also slammed U.S. grain prices, as the U.S. dollar surged against foreign currencies. Some people might consider that as a positive development, but in fact, a stronger dollar means pricier exports, adding to concerns that a projected record crop of corn and soybean may hurt the farm economy.

As the Wall Street Journal noted in a lengthy commentary following Britain historic vote, cheaper farm commodities might not be an unmitigated benefit for the meat and poultry industries.

“While cheaper grain is likely to benefit meatpackers who buy corn, wheat and soybean meal in bulk to fatten poultry and livestock,” the story stated, “the currency shifts could slow overseas shipments of meat, and some analysts worried that low-cost feed could encourage overexpansion in that industry.”

And for all the passionate fans who live and die with their Premier League soccer teams, the UK’s equivalent of the National Football League, the British pound’s decline against the euro is bad news.

“If the pound continues to fall, then foreign talent will become more expensive,” Simon Chadwick, professor of sports enterprise at the University of Salford, told the London-based The Sun newspaper, “so that could have a huge knock-on effect in the summer transfer window.”

Translation: British soccer teams could be stuck paying the more than 330 European players in the league more money, thanks to an unfavorable exchange rate, which is like an NFL team that’s unable to sign any free-agent talent because there’s no space left under the salary cap.

The flip side of the vote

But there’s been one positive effect of the referendum to which that Americans can totally relate.

A British butcher is going to start selling meat in pounds and ounces for its customers who are fed up with the metric system.

According to an article in The Sun, the Gratton’s Butchers shop is now giving its customers the ability to buy “meaty” goods in either imperial quantities, rather than the grams and kilograms mandated by a 1995 EU law that required all measuring devices used in trade or retail to display metric quantities.

Darren Gratton is the owner of the shop located in Barnstaple, Devon, a town along the English Channel some 400 kilometers — uh, make that 250 miles — southwest of London. He said that a lot of his customers who voted in favor of the Brexit wanted their meat sold in the older imperial method of pounds and ounces.

“The next step is to speak to North Devon Council, and if they say we can go back to pounds and ounces, then we will do that,” he said (see photo). “All the customers wanted it back in pounds.”

Only one question remains: What the heck is Mr. Gratton (far right) holding in the middle of his tray? It looks like a slab of pork wrapped around a giant blob of lard. I don’t claim to be an expert on English specialty meats, but I must be honest.

Whatever that item is would be a tough sell here in The States

No matter what unit of measurement appeared on the scales.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.


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