Supermarket giant pledges to buy British to boost pork sales

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ONE of the country’s biggest supermarkets has announced that it will source all of its own-brand fresh pork products from British farms, including 6,000 pigs each week from Yorkshire.

Bosses at Sainsbury’s say the pledge reduces the chain’s reliance on imports from continental Europe but admitted the promise fell short of bacon and gammon which would continue to be sourced from a combination of Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark.

However, the announcement has come after the latest food scare to emerge as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) confirmed diseased cattle, slaughtered after testing positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTB), are being sold for human consumption.

The raw meat, from about 28,000 diseased animals a year, is banned by most supermarkets and burger chains, with Tesco rejecting it because of “public-health concerns surrounding the issue of bTB and its risk to consumers”.

But it is being sold to some caterers and food processors, and finding its way into schools, hospitals and the military, or being processed into products such as pies and pasties.

DEFRA stressed all meat from cattle slaughtered due to bovine TB must undergo “rigorous food safety checks” before it can be passed fit for consumption.

A DEFRA spokeswoman added: “The Food Standards Agency has confirmed there are no known cases where TB has been transmitted through eating meat and the risk of infection from eating meat, even if raw or under-cooked, remains extremely low.”

The move by Sainsbury’s is nonetheless a welcome respite for the beleaguered pig industry and is hoped to address the public’s increasing scepticism over the sourcing of food.

Howden pig farmer Richard Longthorp, the National Pig Association’s chairman, said: “It’s a significant boost to the industry both in terms of the volume and the message it sends to other retailers.

“Hopefully it will give the people supplying into Sainsbury’s the confidence to invest in their businesses to make sure that supply continues to be available.”

Sainsbury’s commitment means all its fresh pork loins, chops and joints across its basics, by Sainsbury’s and Taste the Difference lines will be British, as well as its ham and sausages, starting from Wednesday.

But the absence of bacon and gammon from its all-British guarantee means it has failed to match a commitment made by rivals Waitrose, which was the first to announce all its own brand fresh pork, including bacon and
gammon, was British sourced, in 2008.

Bradford-based Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and The Co-operative also guarantee their own brand fresh pork is 100 per cent British. Budgens has made the same commitment of its fresh SuperValu meat range.

Bpex, the organisation representing pig levy payers in England, said the UK still relies strongly on pork imports with a significant volume delivered from Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, among others, on a monthly basis.

Latest pork import figures from HM Revenue and Customs show in April alone the UK imported about 27,000 tonnes. Bpex said the UK was still less than 50 per cent self-sufficient.

Sainsbury’s said it is committed to doubling the amount of British food it sells by 2020 and was responding to increasing customer interest in home-grown products.

The supermarket said it would now be sourcing 70 per cent more British pigs to meet demand including from six Yorkshire pork producers, whose contribution represents a third of the chain’s national supply under the new arrangements.