January 2014 – The Pig Idea changes tack

I can’t quite believe that by the time you read this a new year will be upon us. I hope you enjoyed the festive period and managed at least to postpone weaning until Boxing Day!

Anyway, time for your monthly canter through all things NPA and I’ll start with the Pig Idea’s ‘Pig Feast – Feeding the 5000′, which was held in Trafalgar Square on November 21.

Now, I noted a comment on the NPA forum (www.npa-uk.org.uk) a short time ago that stated: “The Pig Idea are media savvy, hope the NPA are ready”. In answer to that, damn right we were. It’s our job.

While we didn’t launch an overt counter campaign (as we didn’t want the British pig industry to be responsible for adding to the media attention) we did issue a press release, which had a good take-up.

And we sent a two-page briefing document detailing our concerns regarding the associated disease risk, and the various practicalities associated with feeding waste food to pigs, to all parliamentarians and to the various celebrities who supported the event.

As a result, the NPA managed to convey its concerns via just about every single piece of national media reporting of the Pig Idea including The Sun, BBC (Daily Politics Show and various online articles), The Economist, The Observer, The Guardian, Radio 4’s PM show and the trade press.

Yet again we proved how our small organisation can make a big noise when it wants to.

The Pig Idea was campaigning for the mandatory reintroduction of swill feeding (as per Tristram Stuart’s book, Waste) and it was arrogant enough to think it didn’t need to engage with the pig industry from the beginning of its campaign.

It certainly knows better now. The Pig Idea has recently commented to the BBC that the feeding of foods from supermarkets and factories should only be contemplated “if there is a sufficiently robust system to ensure that they cannot come into contact with meat” and is now campaigning for research into whether the concept can be delivered via a reliably safe process. That’s a complete change of position and is a win for the NPA. I really do think it now realises it can’t just dismiss us.

The NPA also wrote to all retailers, foodservice companies, manufacturers and so on to inform them of our concerns and to ask them to support our safe ‘food-use pyramid’, where in-date wasted food is fed to people primarily, then animals and the remainder is diverted to AD. We have received a number of responses so far, all of which positively endorse the NPA’s position.

And now onto the other big issue, country of origin labelling. In December’s column I reported that the European Commission had proposed a minimum rearing period of six months. Too good to be true we all thought, and we were right!

This ongoing saga has changed on a daily basis and has demanded a lot of time and resource. This is where we now stand after the proposal was voted on in December:

‘Reared in’ and ‘slaughtered in’ only will be required for mandatory (back-of-pack) labelling.

The minimum period to qualify for ‘reared in’ will be four months if the animal is slaughtered over six months of age.

If the animal is slaughtered under six months of age, there are some weight stipulations that must

be met.

Now, this is clever as it still permits the cross-border trade of weaners (from Denmark and the Netherlands to Germany specifically) and fulfils the ‘majority of the animal’s life’ being spent in one member state.

We advised Defra to agree to the four months, however, as the minimum period might otherwise have crept back to the two months initially proposed.

Early good intentions have unfortunately given way to the usual EU politics in this instance as legislation that was supposed to provide transparency and simplification to consumers will just create more confusion.

And how it will be enforced remains to be seen. Our job now is to negotiate with Defra as to how the British flag will be used on products. Our position is that the flag should only appear when an animal has been born, reared and slaughtered in the same country.

We’ll also be starting the process of explaining to consumers what ‘reared in’ and ‘slaughtered in’ actually mean – specifically that it doesn’t mean the same as country of origin.

> The NPA’s regions manager Lizzie Press is standing in as general manager during Zoë Davies’ maternity leave

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