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Why our product is better
"We have tried to demonstrate that the United Kingdom product as a whole is superior — no stalls, no tethers, no meat-and-bonemeal, and no castration, plus taste and traceability" — Stewart Houston, 1999.
BPISG launches 'Adopt-a-supermarket' campaign and starts overseas audits
Press report, 1999
Getting promises out of the pigmeat buyers is only part of the problem — the key now is getting them to stick to these promises. The fear is that when United Kingdom prices rise, pigmeat buyers will again be tempted by pork from abroad that does not match the United Kingdom specification.
As a result BPISG is launching an "Adopt-a-supermarket" campaign in which individuals from any sector of the industry, and their friends and relatives, are encouraged to adopt a particular supermarket in their locality, monitor its pigmeat sourcing policy and liaise with store management.
It has also reached agreement with two supermarkets, Tesco and Asda, which are to let group members carry out spot checks on Dutch farms that supply pigmeat to Britain. Morrisons has also invited BPISG to look around some of its French farms.
We'll be watching
Press report, 1999
Pig farmers are roping in friends and relatives in towns and cities throughout Britain to extend their network monitoring supermarkets to check the country of origin of the pigmeat being sold there.
Over 140 supermarkets are being regularly checked and this number is expected to double in a few weeks. The aim of the British Pig Industry Support Group's "Adopt-a-supermarket" campaign is to ensure supermarkets are honouring their pledge to sell only high-quality pork, bacon and ham produced under high-welfare conditions.
Most supermarkets have pledged the majority of their own-brand pigmeat is now British, or equal in quality. But as prices in the United Kingdom start to rise and move away from the rest of Europe it is feared the multiples may be tempted not to honour their own buying policies.
According to the pig support group's information officer, Digby Scott, most pig farms on the continent cannot produce pigs to British welfare standards. They still keep sows in stalls, feed meat-and-bonemeal and castrate young male pigs, practices banned in Britain.
"Although these farms may be able to slightly undercut our price, consumers have indicated they would rather buy meat that comes from British farms where welfare and safety is considered to be more important than cost," said Mr Scott.
The aim of the pig industry's "Adopt-a-supermarket" scheme is to maintain a dialogue with supermarket managers and to report back on the way British meat is displayed in their stores.
Campaign organiser Ian Campbell, a leading light in the support group, said, "Retailers are beginning to learn that we are everywhere. They can no longer fool us with a good display in one store, while 100 miles away French hams are piled to the ceiling."
Early reports from the "Adopt-a-supermarket" scheme suggest 99 percent of fresh pork being sold by supermarkets is British but only 30 percent of ham is British and practically all supermarkets are selling foreign bacon.
Two supermarkets, Tesco and Leeds-based Asda have promised to co-operate with the British Pig Industry Support Group's requests to carry out spot checks on Dutch farms supplying pigmeat to Britain.
A third supermarket has privately suggested it is time pigmen turned their attention to manufacturers of brand-name pigmeat products, most whom have conspicuously failed to promise the meat they use complies with British quality standards.
NPA was formed as the British pig industry's single voice in a turbulent era of market failure, rampant disease, retailer duplicity, political infamy and a dysfunctional levy-board. It had a faltering first year, but these days a top-flight management team is in place and NPA continues to change the face of the British pig industry for the better.
Press report, 1999
In a blistering attack on politicians, John Rowbottom, a senior figure in the British Pig Industry Support Group, said the vast majority of MPs were doing the bare minimum to assist hard-pressed farmers. Some are actually doing nothing.
In a round-up of politicians whose constituencies include struggling pork producers, he dismissed the efforts of most and said there were very few heroes actively fighting to keep the British pig industry afloat.
"I don't think there are any heroes among the MPs. I don't know of anybody who is sticking his neck out," he said yesterday.
"Elliot Morley is one of our MPs. He is the junior agriculture minister and he is directly in the firing line. He was involved in the agreement drawn up between MAFF and the British Retail Consortium over pork sales which the British Retail Consortium later went back on.
"He was also at the forefront of the unilateral welfare legislation which is affecting British farmers more than those in Europe.
"To cap it all, in the midst of the current crisis his message to us was to stop tail-docking. I think he is a joke."
He added, "Elliot Morley, Nick Brown and the other agriculture ministers do not truly understand the depth of the crisis. They have no real grasp of the situation we have found ourselves in and I believe they can do nothing. Nick Brown has done nothing. He says that he is hugely sympathetic but that is all he says."
Mr Rowbottom and other pig farmers in Yorkshire are now resigned to seeing the wholesale decline of their industry by the middle of the year unless urgent action is not taken immediately.
They have warned the Government that 50 percent of the British pig industry "will cease to exist" by June if the current crisis continued to deepen, with the other 50 percent so burdened with debt that it may never recover.
OUR ROOTS webmaster — Digby Scott, archivist — Ann Scott