US free trade deal could be 'disastrous' for UK pork sector

Any future UK-US deal could dilute pig sector standards and allow 'cheaper' US pork on the market
Any future UK-US deal could dilute pig sector standards and allow 'cheaper' US pork on the market

The UK pig sector has urged the next Prime Minister to ensure any future trade deal does not bring in pork produced to 'illegal' standards.

A post-Brexit US-UK trade deal was on the agenda again, as president Donald Trump visited the UK earlier this week.

He told outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May he is expecting a ‘very, very substantial trade deal’. 'Everything is on the table,' he said.

The visit took place as the Conservative Party prepares to elect a new leader and Prime Minister over the next few weeks.

Mrs May and leadership hopeful Michael Gove have both repeatedly insisted UK farming would not be compromised by post-Brexit trade deals.

But the National Pig Association (NPA) has warned that any future trade deal with the US does not open doors to pork that would be illegal to produce in the UK.

The US government and pork industry have made it clear that they want to see the ‘elimination of impediments’ under any trade deal.

The US pork industry has long been exasperated at the 'anti-science' approach of the EU, which has effectively banned US meat imports by outlawing certain practices that are widespread in the US.

Furthermore, strides made by the UK pig industry to reduce antibiotic use in recent years have not been matched in the US, where usage remains high.

It's not all about chlorine-washed chicken

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said that while there has been a lot of focus on chlorine washed chicken, there is also a 'huge gap' in standards between the UK and US pig sectors.

She said this includes the use of ractopamine to the continued use of sow stalls and much higher use of antibiotics in the US.

“When push comes to shove, it might be tempting for the next Prime Minister to make concessions on agriculture to get a deal through in order to benefit other sectors of the UK economy.

“But this would disastrous for UK pork producers and consumers,” she said.

Ms Davies said US pork is 'much cheaper' to produce compared to UK pork: “Allowing product made using methods banned in the UK into the country would be a betrayal of UK pig producers and the high standards of production they are proud to adhere to.

“It would also be hugely unpopular with consumers.”