Major supermarkets are trying to break the back of British pork

UK - The major retailers have launched a concerted effort to break the back of the British pig industry, says the National Pig Association.
calendar icon 25 February 2006
clock icon 5 minute read

National Pig Association

NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & Whitehall, and with processors, supermarkets & caterers - fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

Following an investigation this week into why the market for British pork is showing no movement at a time when consumer demand is strong and prices should be increasing, the association claims supermarkets want to cut the pig price to levels they know are unsustainable for British producers and processors.

This will give them a free hand to stock their shelves with cheaper, lower-welfare imported pork. Some meat processors will have to cut their kill in the next few weeks. Some may be forced to introduce a four-day week, warns NPA.

Unless urgent action is taken, pig producers will find their supply contracts being cancelled. The association is drawing up a campaign that will involve Government, consumers and the animal welfare lobby.

“Supermarkets are at their most irresponsible when they can bully their suppliers into operating behind a wall of silence,“ said NPA chairman Stewart Houston.

“But if they think back a few years they will remember that as an industry we have considerable experience in exposing the dishonourable methods they use to increase profits, such as misleadingly labelling low-welfare foreign pork as high-welfare British pork.

“They can dress up what they are doing now in fancy words, but we know they are determined to cut the pig price to levels that are unsustainable in Britain where we have higher production costs because of our higher standards.“

In its campaign to save the British pig industry from a concerted effort by supermarkets to cut prices to unsustainable levels, the National Pig Association will:

  1. Carry out a special PorkWatch survey of retailers to gather and collate name-and-shame data.
  2. Press politicians to ask questions in both Houses of Parliament.
  3. Urgently brief Government Ministers.
  4. Advertise to consumers which supermarkets support the British pig industry.
  5. Urge shoppers to boycott those supermarkets that are attempting to break the back of the British pig industry.
In 1998 the British Pig Industry Support Group picketed two ports to prevent imports entering the country.

In 1999 the same group regularly closed down retail distribution depots by picketing them through the night, preventing any supplies from entering or leaving.

Also in 1999, 4,000 pig producers and their families made headlines when they marched through London to Downing Street to highlight the plight of the industry.

Since then National Pig Association has won government support for its drive to persuade retailers to stop selling low-welfare imported pork in packaging that gives the impression it is from British farms, where sows are kept outdoors or loose-housed in straw.

More recently it has campaigned to persuade supermarkets to stop using “tertiary brands“ which are bogus brands with British-sounding names, designed to fool customers into believing they are buying pork and pork products produced to United Kingdom standards.

Supermarket customers have made it clear in surveys carried out by the British Pig Executive that they want to buy pork produced to the United Kingdom ‘gold standard’.

Yet major supermarkets are still importing from countries where pigs are routinely castrated without anaesthetic and sows are confined in narrow cages, without room to turn round or express natural behaviour.

“Until this latest display of corporate greed, the marketplace was giving almost everyone what they needed,“ said Stewart Houston. “Producers were getting a sustainable price, but at the expense of the processors in the middle, who remain vulnerable. And supermarkets were selling consumers the product they want – namely high quality, high-welfare, farm-assured British pork.

“If the retailers continue with their current drive to push prices down to unsustainable levels, the only people who will win are our continental competitors.

“And it is no good the major retailers putting hand on heart and swearing their imported pork is from pigs raised to United Kingdom legal standards - because we know there simply isn’t nearly enough pork raised on the continent to Britain’s much higher welfare standards.“

Source: the National Pig Association - 25th February 2006
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