CLA column: CLA pork champion Alastair Butler says look for the Red Tractor factor
DO you really know about the pork on your fork?
Pig farmer and TV personality Jimmy Doherty is spearheading a new marketing campaign on behalf of fellow English pig farmers.
Using his authentic style, he explains what the Red Tractor mark means for consumers on packs of bacon, ham, pork and sausages.
For a number of years English pig farmers have been excellent a rearing pigs to higher welfare standards than their European counterparts, but when it comes to explaining this to consumers they have been found wanting.
This new consumer-focused initiative finally fills a gap that has been frustrating pork professionals for years.
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It is no coincidence the launch of Jimmy’s crusade ‘Give a fork about your pork’ happened two days after EU legislation partially banned the use of stall accommodation for breeding sows across Europe.
This brings European pig farmers a step closer to their English compatriots in terms of welfare.
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However, a half-done ban does not equate to an absolute veto, which was introduced in England in 1999. While EU legislators should be applauded in their pursuit for higher animal welfare they have been left rather red-faced by the unprecedented disobedience of most European pig producing countries.
Only five have been fully compliant up to January 1 this year.
Some member countries have achieved compliance levels of 70 – 90% while some have shown limited compliance; one example being Italy that is probably currently no more than 33 per cent in compliance.
It begs the obvious question: ‘how much Parma ham sold in the UK in 2013 will have been produced from pigs that have been reared under illegal conditions’?
Much more of a coincidence was the recent exposure of large quantities of horse-meat being found in value burger ranges across a range of large retailers.
Jimmy’s programmes highlight the rigorous levels of traceability required to achieve Red Tractor assurance; consumers purchasing a pack of meat with the Red Tractor mark know all meat within the pack has been reared on British farms to independently assured standards.
Independent assurance is the secret weapon of the Red Tractor scheme and it may turn out that Sainsbury will regret the decision to drop the mark from all of its produce.
It claimed its customers did not understand what the mark represented and that consumers would have more faith in the Sainsbury brand.
Will it be possible for leading retailers to restore consumers’ trust in their large scale meat products procurement?
The British pig industry has one more traceability ace up its sleeve - isotopic testing. A pork chop, a rasher of bacon or even a sausage can be sourced from a retailer and its country of origin, identified because of the water the pig has had access to throughout its life.
This ultimate check is now being used by the pig industry to ensure the traceability of the Red Tractor supply chain is credible.
If you source your pork and other meats from the supermarket, the Red Tractor mark clearly offers traceability. However, supply chains that are able to source from one single farm should offer the definitive reassurance.
At Blythburgh Pork many of our butchers source all of their pork products from our farm.
This level of traceability and product consistency is sometimes more valued by our butchers than even being free range.
Yet it is important to note shopping at a butchers shop is not the complete answer.
Not all butchers choose to source their meat from a traceable supply chain, so never be afraid to ask where their meat actually comes from.
That is, after all, why you’ve made the effort to shop there in the first place!
To become a member of The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) in the East of England, please visit www.cla.org.uk, ring 01638 590429 or email Norfolk and Suffolk’s CLA Territory Manager Bernard.email@example.com