IMPORTS OF fresh pork rose by 50% during 2004 compared with the previous year, according to a report published by the British Pig Executive.
The report also notes the rise in imported fresh pork and associated pork products led to an overall rise in imports during 2004 of 2%.
The ‘Report on the Growth in Pig Meat Imports in the UK 2004’ reveals a continuing surge in imports from a rise of 14% in 2003.
Worryingly, about two-thirds of all imported pork still does not conform to UK welfare standards, says the BPEX report.
BPEX now estimates that the amount of imported fresh pork sold by retailers now represents about 25% of the fresh pork market.
Richard Lowe, BPEX marketing director, said: “It is clear from this report that retailers and foodservice operators are continuing to source pork and pork products produced to welfare standards that do not conform to the UK legal minimum.
“It is of particular concern that some retailers continue to sell fresh pork under tertiary brand labels which enables them to claim that all their own-label fresh pork is produced to UK welfare standards.
In the last year, BPEX has initiated a number of projects to ensure that consumers recognise and actively seek out the new-look Quality Standard Mark.
BPEX has also asked retailers to introduce clear and unambiguous labelling, in order to provide consumers with the opportunity to make a considered choice.
Mr Lowe is particularly angered by the continued importation of pork produced from stalls and tether based systems; a practice that was banned in 1998.
“Despite this, the amount of pork produced to UK legal minimum standards in supplying countries is generally low and in some cases extremely low, relative to total exports to the UK.
“There is a perception from some in the trade that the British market does not require pork and pork products produced from pigs that meet the UK legal minimum standard, yet, consumer research clearly shows the opposite.
“British consumers are overwhelmingly concerned about imports not meeting UK legal standards, and have strongly expressed the desire for equivalent standards in meat production.
“In fact, our recent direct mail campaign to consumers across the country prompted over 35,000 replies, an extraordinarily positive response,” he added.