What Supermarkets Think About the Pig Crisis

UK - It would be not unreasonable to assume that pig industry training pioneer Agskills has third-world status with government.
calendar icon 23 November 2007
clock icon 5 minute read

For whilst legions of well-paid (but on the evidence, third-rate) persons hold important meetings, between the hours of 10am to 5pm, to discuss what is best for Britain’s employed citizens, Agskills is quietly and coldly starved of support.

It is kept short of cash and its training programme is undermined by apparatchiks whose purpose in life, one could almost believe, is to secure their own employment by maintaining the training gravy-train in a state of incomprehensible flux.

Agskills’ problem is that it is a round peg in a square hole: instead of talking about training in the non-language loved by bureaucrats everywhere, because of its propensity to obfuscate - Agskills just gets on and does it.

It provides the structure, the trainers and assessors, and, where possible, the funding, to ensure that pig industry people find their employment rewarding, grow in their jobs and enjoy the benefits of an industry career ladder.

Shock news

Given the above state of affairs, it was a surprise this morning to discover that Agskills is not, according to the Cabinet Office, a third-world organization after all.

It is in fact, according to a Mr Campbell Robb, a third sector organisation.

Mr Robb is the director general of the Office of the Third Sector and he has written to Agskills board member Richard Longthorp asking for lots of information so that the Office of the Third Sector can make life better in so many ways for people in the Third Sector.

But the pig industry is a strange place, full of below-the-salt ingrates, like Mr Longthorp. You would think that he and his downtrodden fellows in the Third Sector would welcome this initiative.

You might suppose they would see it as an olive branch. You might not unreasonably expect that Mr Robb really does want to know what Agskills thinks and that he really, really will make things better.

But no. Mr Longthorp (who as a David Black Award winner should know better) views Mr Robb’s olive branch with an unattractive scepticism.

No doubt the label ‘Third Sector Organisation’ accords with the government’s own status of Third World Banana Republic, he says dismissively.

And in an email on the subject he signs himself “Archbishop Abel Muzorewa Mugabe Amin Darling Brown Longthorp”.

This attitude is disappointing.

  • Third Sector Organisations are (it says here) the range of institutions that occupy the space between the state and the private sector. They include small local community and voluntary groups, registered charities both large and small, and the growing number of social enterprises and co-operatives.


ImportWatch investigators has found no evidence of large quantities of cheap United States manufacturing pork going into discounter Lidl. And BPEX has not been able to identify any large shipments from HM Revenue and Customs data.

However, tertiary brands are a concern. In Oswestry branch ‘Ashfield Farm’ loin steaks from Tulip do not have a county of origin on the label, only ‘Origin EU’. And in Ipswich, ‘Glenview Farm’ bacon from Molls Bacon, Birmingham, is similarly labeled ‘Origin EU’.

Fresh pork is sold under the Strathvale label, from Tulip. As we have mentioned before, this could come from Scotland, which is what the name implies (‘strath’ comes from the Gaelic ‘srath’) but we very much doubt it.

Much better news comes from cash and carry operator Makro, where Tony Goodger of BPEX has been working with Wolverhampton processor F.A. Gill Ltd to improve awareness of Quality Standard Mark pork.

This has involved Gill redesigning its label to show the Mark, as opposed to just adding a sticker. Gill sources pigs from the Thames Valley for Makro and it is marketed as “Pork from the Shires” - and Makro has now moved from using its own branding on fresh meat to carrying the producer’s name.

In order to drive Quality Standard Mark awareness Makro has been trialling BPEX point of sale material, and reports that this has been a great success and has led to an increase in sales.

Tony has just received notification that Makro now plans to run the BPEX point-of-sale package across all its 34 stores.

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