The vast majority of the UK’s major retailers have committed to backing British pork in response to an open letter calling for more support as the sector experiences the worst crisis in recent times.
All the big retailers have now responded to the letter, sent by the National Pig Association (NPA) earlier this month, urging them to prioritise British pork over EU product.
The supermarkets have generally sought to reassure that they are backing the industry, with continued commitments to British pork and efforts to address the labour shortage across the supply chain and to ease the pig backlog.
The letter called on retailers to help resolve the pig backlog by not turning to cheaper EU pork, particularly where it diverts essential butchery staff away from UK product.
“We are also aware that some previously supportive retailers are now considering moving over to EU pork because it is much cheaper,” NPA Chairman Richard Mutimer said.
Falling EU prices have made imported pork more attractive to retailers, and official government trade data suggests UK pork import volumes have been increasing since the summer, after being well below 2020 levels in the first part of the year.
Describing the impact of the backlog of pigs on farms and warning of more welfare culling, Mr Mutimer said: “I am therefore asking for you to help us by prioritising British pork through the plants and diverting butchery staff back to British pigs so we can get the throughputs back to where they need to be."
The vast majority of the UK’s major retailers have committed to backing British pork in response to the open letter.
A response from Asda said: "Asda is committed to assisting our pork supplier, Cranswick, and their British farming suppliers in this difficult period for the sector.
"We have highlighted British pork product to help drive awareness and consumption with our customers."
Sainsbury’s said it was committed to supporting British pork, with 100% of its fresh pork being British which it has upheld since 2013.
A spokesperson said: "Sainsburys and our processors are working together to ensure we sell as much pork as possible, having frequent conversations to ensure we have the highest throughput of pigs achievable.
"These include but are not limited to: turning off slow labour-intensive small volume processing lines to maximise output, removal of netting of some of our joints and running promotions where relevant.
"Sainsburys will continue to work collaboratively with industry to support the British pig sector."
Tesco, the biggest seller of British pig meat in the UK, said that over the last 18 months it had worked closely with suppliers to respond to higher demand for British pork - and its sales had 'never been higher'.
"We are working closely with our suppliers to ensure that British product is being processed to the maximum capacity in the abattoirs," the retailer said.
"Currently, the lack of skilled butchery in the UK means that we cannot get any more material through the abattoirs.
"Tesco removing EU pigmeat from shelves will not result in more British pigs being processed to help clear the backlog on farms. Only the processors finding more butchers will achieve this."