In its challenge, the union presented managers at Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury’s supermarkets with the labels from imported pork products purchased in store and asked if an audit trail back to the farm of production was available. Being able to produce such a trail would reassure consumers and the industry that no illegally produced imported pork is appearing on UK supermarket shelves.
Major changes to pig welfare standards were introduced across Europe at the start of 2013 that significantly restrict the use of sow stalls on farms. The UK banned the use of such stalls 13 years ago and, since that time, all Scottish or UK pork, bacon and ham has been produced to this higher welfare standard. However, recent figures reveal that only nine other member states are fully compliant with the rules and in France, Germany, Cyprus and Portugal, the level of implementation of the new rules on sow stalls is less than 75 percent. In support of UK producers, major retailers have stated their intention not to stock imported pig meat produced on non-compliant European farms.
“We are very encouraged by the level of engagement that we have had from Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda in taking up our challenge," said NFU Scotland’s Food Chain Relationships Manager Wendy Fleming. "The information gathering exercise isn’t complete yet, but all retailers have shown a willingness to take part. From a consumer and industry perspective, the initial responses from retailers to our challenge suggests that traceability around imports is in place and reassurances can be met. Given recent events in the food sector, that is welcome. The results of the retailer challenge set NFU Scotland a further two tasks, according to Fleming. "We must look at import substitution and encourage those same retailers we have been working with to stock more Scottish or UK pork on their shelves," she said. "At the same time, we need to drive demand. Consumers want fresh, tasty, local produce on the shelves and Scottish pig producers can deliver on that.”