The Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST), the conservation charity whose aim is to secure the future of the UK’s native livestock breeds, is urging consumers to question the provenance of their pork products and insist on pedigree British pork.
The call comes as RBST publishes its annual figures showing the number of actively breeding native farm animals. While cattle, sheep and even goat numbers are relatively stable, out of the 11 pig breeds recognised as being native to the British Isles, seven are seeing their numbers fall. Of those seven, the well-known Gloucestershire Old Spot is in the steepest decline.
Tom Beeston, CEO of RBST said: “Because we are concerned to preserve the genetics of pure-bred native livestock, we only take animals with a full traceable pedigree into account in our figures and breeding numbers are falling. There is an urgent need to encourage more producers to take on these breeds to stop the genetic pool shrinking, but breeders must have a market for their produce. That means we need more people to buy native-breed pork – and, when they buy, to make sure that they are buying the real thing.”
Taste is the key selling point for native breed meat products and chefs and food experts acknowledge that different breeds have different cooking and eating qualities. The fact that each breed has its own individual taste and texture supports the RBST view that it is important that native pedigree meat products are properly identified and that the buying public gets what it is paying for.
Beeston said: “I have lost count of the times people have told me they have had Gloucestershire Old Spots sausages but there are only 416 registered pedigree breeding females in the whole country. If there was that much pedigree meat on the market, we wouldn’t be seeing the breeding numbers falling. The great problem we must overcome is that many people are probably not eating the real thing. And if they are not eating the real thing, they are not enjoying the taste of genuine pedigree pork.
“When you speak to someone who has tasted genuine pedigree pork, you get comments like ‘it tastes like pork used to taste’. If people are to fully appreciate the diversity offered by native breed meat, we need to ensure that its integrity is protected. To do that, we need more shoppers asking their butchers to make sure they are getting pedigree native breed meat – with the emphasis on pedigree.”
The UK native pig breeds monitored by RBST are: British Landrace, British Lop, Large Black, Middle White, Berkshire, Large White, Tamworth, British Saddleback, Gloucestershire Old Spots, Oxford Sandy and Black and Welsh.