Origin of pork testing steps up a gear
Published:  24 February, 2016

Origin testing of pork and pork products is being stepped up by AHDB Pork from once a quarter to once a month. 

The testing method uses Stable Isotope Reference Analysis (SIRA), a technology that compares retail and processed pork and pork products against a library of pork samples from known locations built up over a number of years.

According to AHDB Pork, the ratios of the four main stable isotopes contained in pork mean the probability of the sample coming from the UK can be determined.

“The focus to date has been on fresh pork in supermarkets,” said Mick Sloyan, AHDB Pork’s strategy director.

“Last year, we extended it to bacon and pork used as a raw material in sausages and ham.

“In the coming months, we will be focusing on high street butchers, a segment of the market we haven’t concentrated on in the past.”

In use for the past two years, the SIRA testing enhances traceability and assurance.  

“We know consumers take a great interest in the origin of their pork and it is now a legal requirement to make sure packs of fresh pork are clearly labelled with the country of origin.”

The news has been welcomed by the National Pig Association (NPA). “Many butchers are great supporters of British pig farmers and wouldn’t dream of selling anything but locally-produced high-welfare pork,” said the association’s chairman, Richard Lister. “But some sell only on price.

“They import cheap pork from the Continent. That’s fine, if it’s their chosen business model. However, they must describe country of origin accurately, otherwise their customers will assume it’s British, and that’s something we cannot tolerate.”

Buyers will visit independent retail outlets and buy samples of pork and pork products for the SIRA testing method, to determine the origin of the meat.

“It’s a process the industry uses to persuade retailers of the importance of honest labelling,” added NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. “The ideal outcome from our point of view would be to find no misleading claims, made either verbally or via labelling.”

Davies said that British pig producers were adamant that all pork and such products in Britain’s shops and restaurants must be labelled honestly because the country’s pig farmers employ different husbandry systems than Continental farmers.

“In successive surveys consumers have told us they prefer our higher welfare farming methods and as this involves a small extra cost at point of sale we are determined when shoppers buy British pork, then British pork is what they are getting.”