Pig farmers talking "poppycock" says British Retail Consortium

UK - A claim by the British Retail Consortium in yesterday's Yorkshire Post that the pig industry is talking "poppycock" about misleading labelling has met with a firm rebuttal by NPA chairman Richard Longthorp.
calendar icon 31 July 2003
clock icon 4 minute read
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NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & White-hall, and with pro-cessors, supermarkets & caterers – fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

The industry is currently campaigning for an end to dishonest labelling.

  • It says retailers should stop selling "tertiary brands" with misleadingly labels that give the impression the imported pork they contain is British.
  • And it cites an authoritative report by the British Pig Executive that shows most imported pork does not comply with the welfare and quality assurance requirements of the "UK Specification".
But when the industry's concerns were put to the British retail Consortium by Yorkshire Post reporter Bob Benson, a spokesman dismissed them as "poppycock".

He is quoted in the Yorkshire Post as saying: "We are getting a bit frustrated about all this because the pig farmers cannot substantiate their claims. They are rolling this out without any evidence."

In a letter to the editor of the Yorkshire Post Richard Longthorp asks exactly what the British Retail Consortium is describing as "poppycock".
To view the letter, please click here (PDF format)

"Such a groundless and quite frankly plain clumsy and provocative statement cannot go unchallenged. What is he claiming is poppycock? The British Pig Executive Report? The government's import figures? The figures supplied by other EU countries as to their levels of production of UK specification pork? The arithmetic of the authors of the report?

"There are some well respected individuals, bodies and countries in the mix above that the BRC are claiming are party to a load of "poppycock". Even the Danes don't dispute the report's findings."

Richard Longthorp (who has sent a copy of his letter to the British Retail Consortium) says he is prepared to deliver specific evidence of misleading signage and labelling to British Retail Consortium's London offices.

"Just name the place and the time and I look forward to the opportunity to expose the BRC's totally irresponsible attitude to retailers' customers and the whole wider issue of the provenance of pork. Perhaps the BRC would extend an invitation to such a meeting to the Press?"

Retailers, he says, continue to confuse and mislead customers about the provenance of the pork they sell.

He fears that by their inflammatory remarks, British Retail Consortium have significantly undermined the NPA's efforts to start rebuilding bridges between pig producers and retailers.

And he voices his frustration at the retail sector's apparent unwillingness to participate in the development of a truly integrated and more importantly sustainable pork chain.

NPA executive director Stewart Houston has written to all the leading retailers asking for the following assurances:
  • 'That pork, bacon, ham and other pork products is clearly and prominently labelled so that consumers cannot be mislead as to its origin. I am sure that you are aware of the Food Standards Agency guidelines on this point and would wish to comply with them.'

  • 'That all the pork, bacon, ham and pork products on sale meet at least the UK minimum legal requirements and preferably the whole chain standards laid down for British Meat Quality Standard Mark. I am aware that in the past some retailers have only been prepared to give such reassurances in relation to products sold under their own brand. This has allowed the development of Tertiary Brands. In my view these are nothing more than flags of convenience to allow product that could not be produced legally in this country to be passed off as meat of an adequate standard.'

  • 'That the traceability systems you use to protect the integrity of the pork and pork products that you sell is sufficiently robust in the light of the very rapid rise in imports. I would be interested to understand how you are achieving this at present, especially when it is clear from the BPEX report that there is insufficient pork of the right standard to supply our market.'
Source: National Pig Association - By Digby Scott - 30th July 2003
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