The row following the introduction of BPEX ‘isotope profiling’ in September rumbled on - following evidence that a pack of Tesco ‘British’ labelled pork was probably of Dutch provenance. The recent introduction of ‘outcome measures’ in the auditing of British pig assurance scheme also continued to provoke debate within the industry.
Major media coverage followed the BPEX Press Release last month announcing the introduction of the new Stable Isotope Reference Analysis (SIRA) alongside the existing auditing carried out under the Red Tractor Farm Assurance Pigs Scheme .This type of analysis is purportedly able to link a sample of pork or bacon to the geographical area of production, via isotope profiling, and, in particular, to provide analytical confirmation that a particular product is produced from British pigs.
The initial analyses found that one of the 40 samples analysed, a British-labelled Tesco Pork Chop, was almost certainly of Dutch provenance. The product was supplied to Tesco from Cranswick, from pork allegedly sourced from FA Gill.
The company, who were suspended by Tesco as an approved supplier of pork, continued to contest the finding that they had supplied this product to the packer, Cranswick, and that it was impossible that imported pork could have come from its own supply chain. At the time of writing, the issue remained unresolved.
In April this year, a trialling of the use of so called ‘welfare outcomes’ was introduced into the Red Tractor Farm Assurance Pigs Scheme . The principle behind recording ‘welfare outcomes’ is to assess welfare standards using an objective measurements of what the pigs show rather than just observing the environment in which they are kept. The trial was introduced for finishing pigs only and five different measures were required to be taken by vets in their quarterly inspections – numbers of tail lesions and body marks, lameness, use of ‘enrichment materials’ and the number of sick or injured pigs nor being kept in a special ‘hospital pen’. The scheme was called Real Welfare or the BPEX ‘Welfare Outcomes’ Project.
Although many in the industry support the principle of using ‘welfare outcomes’ as a more comprehensive and objective assessment of welfare standards, there remain many practical issues to be ironed out in its implementation. This view was reaffirmed in a recent article in The PigSite and a report issued by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee.
BPEX recently set up a Review Group, which recently issued some revised protocols to the scheme and a fuller review to be completed by the end of February 2014.