The UK pig industry might get a boost after a “surge” in enquiries for British pork from the food service sector.
The increased interest was sparked by new EU country of origin labelling rules, which came into force in April, said the National Pig Association (NPA).
It is now mandatory for all packaging of fresh and frozen meat sold to foodservice outlets to state the country or countries where the animals were reared and slaughtered – and for this to be backed up by a paper trail back to the farm.
NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said: “We are seeing a surge in enquiries from restaurants, pubs, hotels, and even fast-food caterers, and we hope to be able to announce in due course that some have decided to go the McDonald’s route and source all-British pork and pork products.
“Some are interested in sourcing premium free-range pork and some want competitively priced British commercial pork, but the common factor is an interest in being able to guarantee British provenance.”
The National Pig Association (NPA) said many foodservice companies had been surprised that some of the pork they had been selling was imported from another EU country.
Yet the UK is currently less than 60% self-sufficient in pigmeat, while other countries, like Germany produce 30% more pigmeat a year than they consume.
This is despite consumers having greater confidence in British meat, with 65% of shoppers surveyed in a recent YouGov survey saying that importing European pork not produced under food assurance schemes could increase the risk of another horsegate scandal.
NPA chairman and pig producer Richard Lister, said: “British pig farmers have a reputation for exemplary animal welfare, and the eating quality of our product is superior too because unlike the continental pig industry, which produces large quantities of carbon-copy pork, British pig farmers satisfy consumer desire for different production systems, such as outdoor free-range, outdoor-bred, and outdoor-reared pork.
“If you sell British pork then it makes good business sense to advertise the fact.”
The new labelling laws do not yet cover ham, bacon and sausages served in the foodservice industry.