Tulip dropped its headline "shout" price by an unprecedented 3p a kg, at a time when shoppers are demanding wholesome British meat, rather than anonymous imported meat. This is a slap in the face for the country's loss-making pig farmers, said Britain’s National Pig Association (NPA).

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Tulip, which is owned by the international meat giant Danish Crown, has pulled the rug from its British suppliers just as the market was beginning to recover from its quiet post-Christmas period, claimed the NPA.

It plans to appeal directly to retailers and consumers to resist any moves by large processors to prop up their profit margins by importing more “cheap product” from mainland Europe.

The move by Tulip was particularly devastating because, it was Britain's largest pork processor and other processors usually followed its lead on price, said an NPA spokeswoman.

Tulip's decision to drop its headline price by 3p a kg is expected plunge many British pig farmers deeper into the red as they struggle to compete against cheap lower-welfare imports, which do not yet comply with the EU’s new partial sow stalls ban.