FARMER FOCUS: Meat mislabelling is downright demoralising

So it’s well over a year since the whole horsemeat scandal came to light, and we’re still hearing stories of, some might say, misleading labelling or retailing, I would say downright corruption.

From a personal angle, it is blooming tough when the playing field is not level. Before entering the meat industry I was completely naive to what it was like and these days I find myself constantly questioning whether or not it is an industry I want to be in when it seems there are so many that will take the short road to success by misleading, and in some cases plain lying. I have even been told that I am not “bent” enough to be in the trade.

Like myself, there are niche producers, perhaps rare breed or organic, whose costs are more than other producers, be it UK or imports, whom obviously have to charge a higher price for their products.

Speaking with small producers, it is not uncommon to sell one Gloucester Old Spot pig and for that one pig to somehow produce five pigs worth of Gloucester Old Spot pork chops when it comes to retail. Yet it is so hard, as a small producer, to tackle this issue as you risk losing business completely.

And it is sad because we are in a time when some consumers really do want to support higher welfare and there’s some great work being done educating consumers on the different terms and labels, and how they relate to production systems and welfare.

It’s one thing knowing what labels to look out for, but it seems that with all that goes on, customers would need to be blooming detectives to ensure they get “what it says on the tin”.

And ultimately it drives down producers’ branding – which they have worked hard to build – when consumers believe they are eating a certain product but in fact they are eating something far inferior. And from a small producer’s perspective, it’s downright demoralising.

Anna Longthorp runs Anna’s Happy Trotters, a pork wholesale business supplying butchers, restaurants and farm shops with free-range pork from her family’s 2,100 breeding sows