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Supermarkets shun cheap imports for British pork

Despite cheaper imported supplies being available, supermarkets have stepped up their support for British pork, according to the latest Porkwatch survey.

Helen Browning's organic pigs

Helen Browning’s organic pigs

Despite cheaper imported supplies being available, supermarkets have stepped up their support for British pork, according to the latest Porkwatch survey.

“This is a remarkable testament to the quality of the domestic product at a time when the gap between British farm-gate prices and the average European Union price is 26p a kilo, and the differential with Danish pork is over 35p a kilo,” says National Pig Association chairman Richard Lister, who farms in North Yorkshire.

Retailers have increased the proportion of British bacon versus imported on their shelves from 44 percent to 46 percent, and they have maintained British sausages at 83 percent, British fresh pork at 83 percent, and British ham at 64 percent.

The only disappointing performer is ASDA which shows a fall in every category—down from 59 percent to 58 percent British fresh pork, from 19 percent to 18 percent on bacon, from 31 percent to 28 percent on ham and from 76 percent to 73 percent on sausages.

“We recognise some retailers have an extremely cost-conscious customer base,” said NPA chief executive Dr. Zoe Davies. “Nevertheless there is plenty of evidence to show the best way to grow the pork category is to major on British, so we will be urging ASDA to review its sourcing policies.”

Tesco has maintained its proportion of British pork versus imported at 66 percent and British sausages at 80 percent. It has increased its British bacon from 44 percent to 45 percent, but is down from 58 percent to 57 percent on British ham.

NPA’s British fresh pork one-hundred-percenters are Budgens, the Co-operative, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and the hard discounter Aldi—and Lidl looks like joining the club soon, having increased its British fresh pork from 89 percent to 92 percent.

In recent months British pig farmers have applauded supermarkets for sticking to their 2013 Horsegate pledges to restore customer trust by sourcing more British pork and pork products.

They have continued supporting the domestic product despite the provocation of a glut of cheap pork in continental cold stores and falls in the value of the euro, which together have created a significant temporary price differential.

In its current Keep-It-Up! campaign, NPA points out that retailer sourcing policies highlight the taste, tenderness, welfare and whole-chain assurance qualities of British pork, all of which explain its premium position on supermarket shelves.

• Sourcing more British meat and promoting the fact on-pack to customers means supermarkets are stealing a lead on restaurants and fast-food chains when it comes to gaining public trust, according to YouGov data. Nearly 70 percent of shoppers trust the meat they buy in supermarkets either a lot or a fair amount. This compares with only 58 percent trusting the meat they are served in restaurants and 17 percent in fast-food outlets.

• Recent YouGov research also found 81 percent of shoppers who buy meat want supermarkets to continue stocking a high level of British meat to maintain consumer confidence, 65 percent believe importing more European pork not produced under food assurance schemes like Red Tractor could increase risk of another Horsegate style scandal, and only 19 percent want more cheaper European pork imports to keep down prices.

• The Porkwatch survey is carried out every other month by pig industry levy body Bpex, which uses professional researchers to measure supermarket shelf facings rather than volume, but the two are closely linked. The figures quoted above compare March Porkwatch results with January Porkwatch results.

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