06 November 1998
Supermarket pledge leaves industry puzzled
By Jonathan Riley
A COMMITMENT by supermarkets not to sell imported meat processed in the UK under a British label has left pig farmers confused and unsure as to what the pledge means.
The commitment hailed as a major breakthrough by agriculture minister Nick Brown and the National Farmers Union.
But other industry groups have raised doubts about the significance of the move after a revised statement by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) stressed that it applied only to fresh meat.
After a meeting between Mr Brown and retailers earlier this week, the BRC said the move would help British pig producers and go a long way to stop imported food – especially bacon – being sold as a British product.
Retailers also assured the minister that all pigmeat sold from next January would match UK welfare standards, would be stall-and-tether free and would not come from animals fed on meat and bonemeal.
|Agriculture minister Nick Brown, pictured saucing some British meat|
Mr Brown said he wanted to bring all parts of the food chain together for everyones benefit.
“The Government is keen to work with producers, processors and retailers to make sure that the consumer is well served,” he said. “Much of what has been achieved has been driven by the industry.”
Members of the British Pig Industry Support Group initially spoke of their delight at the assurances.
“This statement is at the very heart of what we have been trying to achieve – the chance to compete on equal terms with producers abroad,” said a spokesman.
But, later, pig industry representatives and animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming questioned the significance of the BRCs revised position which stressed the word “fresh”.
The NFU said that the current labelling of pigmeat could confuse consumers and that the decision would provide greater clarity especially for those wanting to buy British.
Consumers who wanted to support farmers could now be sure that something was really British when labelled as such, said an NFU spokesman.