By Peter Crichton

THERE are reports this week that a number of the major supermarket groups in the UK are looking more closely at their pigmeat procurement policies.

The threat of more protests by hard-pressed pig farmers seems to be having an affect, according to Stewart Houston, chairman of the British Pig Industry Support Group.

Asda has indicated that they hope to shift a proportion of their buying away from imported meat where there are no guarantees that the product has not come from a stall-and-tether unit. There is also the reassurance that UK produce has been fed no meat and bone meal.

This policy change has yet to be fully confirmed in writing and the industry waits to see the overall extent of the Asda product range that will be included within this commitment.

An Iceland spokesperson has confirmed that the store is paying more attention to pigmeat that may have been produced on “cruel” foreign systems. Tesco and Sainsburys have already given some wide-ranging assurances to their pig suppliers that they will not source any pigmeat that is not produced to high welfare and fully traceable standards.

Somerfield is expected to come under further producer pressure and may face selected shopfront protests unless it also publishes a clear declaration that it too will change its buying to favour UK products. Their sponsorship of the Labour Party conference may also be just the media spotlight that animal rights activists and producers are looking for.

Latest statistics indicate that the retail sector are continuing to profit at the producers expense. Signet reports for August show a massive 408% mark-up between retail prices and AAPP. The corresponding figure for August 1997 was 294% and the current margin shows a 40% increase in the retailers favour.