• This note describes the pig industry in the UK and some of its problems. The pig industry has operated in a highly competitive environment without the price support offered by the EU to other sectors.

• Animal welfare concerns in the UK led to stricter welfare laws than in the rest of the EU. The result has been increased imports of pork and bacon. British farmers believe that many consumers do not realise that pigs in other EU countries do not have to conform to the same welfare standards as those in the UK.

• Labelling laws do not allow terms like “British bacon” to be strictly limited to bacon from pigs reared on British farms. Consumers buying “British bacon” may be misled by the label “British bacon”. However, food labelling is an EU competency. Currently the EU origin marking scheme protects traditional products from particular regions. It does not cover meat in general and it does not apply to whole Member States.

• New EU regulations in 2011 will require some origin labelling for meat from 2015.

• British pig farmers have tried to get round the problem by persuading the four large supermarkets to favour British pork and bacon, while only labelling pork or bacon as British if it comes from pigs reared on British farms. A broader voluntary agreement with the retail industry was reached in November 2010.

• Further information is available on the Pigs page on the Defra website – in particular covering animal welfare. The Defra pages are normally the best place to go for the most recent information.

• The Coalition Government is committed to “honesty in food labelling so that consumers can be confident about where their food is coming from and its environmental impact”.

• Despite brief optimism in autumn 2010, profitability of pig farming declined by 40% in the 2010/11 financial year. Provisional figures for 2011/2 show a further decline of nearly 20%. High cereal prices increased prices of feed, but pig prices did not reflect the increase.

Related posts