Oliver to campaign for pigs

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been filming in Denmark for his latest programme, which will target cheap pork imports and highlight the plight of British pig farmers.

Oliver will present the 90-minute documentary 'Jamie Saves Our Bacon' on Channel 4 in the New Year. The programme will compare the high welfare standards practised by UK farmers to those on the Continent, which produces half of British pork.

The chef hopes that the programme will help promote British pork and save the British pig industry, which he says is "on its knees"

"Our farmers say that 70% of the pork we import is from countries with lower welfare standards than ours and would have been illegal to produce here. All our farmers want is a level playing field with Europe," he said.

"The support of the British public, as well as government and retailers, is critical in deciding the future, possibly the very survival, of our pig industry."

Yorkshire pig farmers were interviewed for the documentary, with camera crews visiting farms in the region as part of the filming. The crew also visited two farms in Denmark, where filming focused on sow stalls, which are illegal in the UK and castration, which is legal but not widely practiced.

"Jamie Oliver has been in Denmark filming for his new series. We took the decision to engage in the programme and not run away," said John Howard, marketing director of Danish Bacon and Meat Council (DMBC).

The British chef was apparently not convinced that the two units he visited were representative of Danish production systems as a whole, but the Danes insist they were not trying to hide anything.

Trine Vig, of Danish Pig Production (DSP) said: "Oliver is claiming that we are hiding systems from him but we showed him a farm that sells to the UK."

Howard added: "We went to two units that represent 80% of production in Denmark. We were not attempting to hide anything. We have put our case forward, although quite how it will come out in the wash remains to be seen. The overall agenda of the programme was pretty obvious."

Alistair Mackintosh, livestock board chairman of the National Farmers' Union, said Oliver's new show was "fantastic news" for British farmers, but Mike Wijnberg, supply chain manager at Tulip, pointed out that the even British producers must remain vigilant when it comes to public perception.

"We have celebrity chef programmes and people running around units at night with cameras and To the inexperienced eye production facilities can look horrific - especially older buildings," he said.

"Farmers need to improve the presentation of their facilities, even making an effort to strim the weeds can make a big difference."

Oliver is expected to give less popular cuts of pork, such as roast pork shoulder, a big push in the programme. "He has prewarned supermarkets so they can prepare for increased demand," said Howard.