Somerfield depots under siege from pig producers
PIG farmers have staged an overnight blockade at four Somerfield distribution depots in their latest protest about the retailers pigmeat buying and labelling policies.
At Somerfields Bridgwater depot in Somerset, the crowd included children. Parents said they were fighting for their families futures. There was also a strong supporting contingent of beef, sheep and dairy farmers.
Pigmeat products bought in Somerfield stores that day were burnt in front of TV cameras if country of origin could not be easily determined.
The farmers said that Somerfield has not used the British "mark of distinction" on fresh pork, and on very little British bacon. A spokesman also pointed out that most imported bacon did not carry country of origin labels, so consumers were being deceived.
"All the market research we have done shows consumers want to buy British pigmeat. But a lot of Somerfields is so poorly labelled even we find it difficult to identify country of origin, and in many cases we cannot.
"We just do not believe their claims about production standards of imported pigmeat," the spokesman said.
He added that, a year ago, after pig producers demonstrated outside Somerfields store at Wymondham, Norfolk, the supermarket issued a statement saying that all its imported bacon, except for its "basics" range, was from units not using sow stalls and tethers and not feeding meat and bonemeal.
The basics range would also meet those standards by the end of 1998, said the statement.
Yet, during last weeks blockade, Somerfield issued a written statement which included results of a recent traceability audit that confirmed that "all Somerfield lines (bar Basics bacon) were from British or welfare-approved herds".
The statement also claimed that Somerfield could have made an extra £5m profit by selling only imported fresh pork instead of supporting British producers. "No one has done as much as Somerfield to ensure the British housewife keeps buying British pork," the statement said. *