Quality Marks

Newsletter No. 23 – February 2005 Item 3

The UK Pig industry is introducing a Quality Standard Mark.  The industry is investing £1million (US$1,87m) to launch the initiative.

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the manner in which animals producing their meat are raised and how they are fed.  Legislation banning the use of stalls and tethers in pig farming came into force in 1999 in the UK.  A British consumer survey showed that 92 percent agreed that imported meat should be produced to U.K. minimum standards.   Currently more than 50 percent of all pork, bacon, and ham on supermarket shelves is imported -- a figure which rose by four percent in 2003.  The price of this imported pork is cheaper as there are cost implications to raise the pork to the new British standards.

The promotional campaign includes national press and magazine advertising, direct mail, and a public relations campaign. A website is due to be launched, which will allow consumers to find out which supermarkets stock pork, bacon, and ham meeting U.K. standards.

UK Pig farmers are being put at a very real disadvantage as more and more supermarket shelves are being filled up with cheaper imports that would be illegal to produce in the UK.  The industry makes it clear that it is not an anti-import campaign. Imported products can carry the Quality Standard Mark if they meet UK standards in production methods.  The industry is simply trying to make consumers aware of this issue. The Quality Standard Mark gives them clear, simple information they need to make an informed choice.

An organisation in the United States have introduced a quality standard label - Certified humane raised and handled.  The certification recognises the increased consumer concerns and provides a certification for producers wishing to operate best practices to gain competitive advantage.  Their mission is to improve the welfare of farm animals by providing viable, credible, duly monitored standards for humane food production and ensuring consumers that products meet these standards.   Key areas they are looking at are raising animals with sufficient space, quality feed, with no added antibiotics or hormones.  Funding is through a headage payment, which obviously adds to the rearing costs, but is recuperated from the added value.

These type of quality marks are only of any value if all producers in the scheme operate them with pride and do not try to cheat the system.   They are also only of value if the buyers are aware of the benefits, hence the need for strong promotion.  Pork production in Great Britain for 2004 amounted to 158,974 metric tonnes.  Therefore the US$1.87m is equivalent to a little more than 1cent per kilo of meat when measured against the annual production.  This demonstrates the benefits of economies of scale and pooling resources for promotion.

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