The Co-op has announced that from July all its own-brand fresh pork, bacon, sausage, gammon and ham will be sourced from 100% outdoor-bred pigs on RSPCA Assured farms.
The move means that all pigs within its producer group will be born outdoors and raised in well-ventilated, spacious straw barns to strict RSPCA welfare standards on farms across the UK, the company said
The retailer is working with Tulip, the UK’s largest outdoor pig producer, to establish the 100% outdoor supply, which is is set to be rolled out across both standard and premium Co-op ranges
The company said the supply chain would offer total traceability ‘from farm to fork in which sows are free from confinement and pigs are able to fully express their natural behaviours’.
Last May, the Co-op switch all of its own-brand fresh meat to 100% British, alongside a further £1bn investment into sourcing home-grown meat and fresh produce.
Jo Whitfield, the Co-op’s retail CEO said: “Our customers and members shop with us because they know we are as passionate as they are about animal welfare, so we’re delighted to be able to bring such a pioneering approach to our pig offering.
“The highest animal welfare standards should not just be the preserve of top-tier products and we want to ensure that the very best quality British pork is available at everyday affordable prices. We will be working hard with innovative and passionate British farmers who share our principles, to provide exceptional quality pork produce with a conscience.”
RSPCA Assured CEO Clive Brazier said: “Thanks to the Co-op many more pigs will have a better life reared to RSPCA welfare standards. And not only that, but the Co-op is helping bust the perception that higher welfare food always means a higher retail price.
“Shoppers can be confident that, no matter what their budget is, all own-brand fresh pork products in the Co-op will be RSPCA Assured. This is a major step forward for helping improve pig welfare and we hope other retailers will follow suit.”
Farming Minister George Eustice said: “There is growing consumer interest in food provenance, animal welfare and the way food is produced and I welcome the decision of the Co-op to embrace that by switching to outdoor bred pigs.”
Tulip’s CEO Steve Francis said: “We are delighted to strengthen our long-standing partnership with the Co-op to offer consumers greater access to great quality, higher welfare pork products sourced from farms in the UK.
“The 100% RSPCA Assured outdoor bred promise will provide Co-op shoppers with the confidence that their pork products are produced responsibly and ethically to industry-leading welfare standards.”
Recognition of high quality British pork
NPA Chairman Richard Lister welcomed the Co-op’s ongoing commitment to sourcing 100% of its pork products from British farms.
“It is further recognition of the value the supply chain and consumers place on high quality British pork,” he said.
“The UK pig sector is unique in its broad diversity of production systems – we offer consumers unparalleled choice at many different price points, including those who actively seek outdoor-bred pork and those who don’t.
“We support the RSPCA standard as it provides a premium for farmers that are able to produce in this way, but in reality, there is a limit to the number of pigs that can be bred outdoors because of insufficient suitable land. So whilst we welcome Co-op’s commitment to British pork, the volume of pork reared under the RSPCA assured label would not be able to satisfy the entire UK market.”
“Consumers choosing conventionally produced British Red Tractor pork can also be safe in the knowledge that it is reared to high welfare, food safety and environmental standards with full traceability.”
Tracey Jones, director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming, said: “We wholeheartedly congratulate the Co-op for making this move to higher welfare pig production across both their standard and premium own brand products. By doing so they are not only addressing key issues such as confinement and the need to provide pigs with a stimulating environment, but they are making higher welfare the norm and meeting their customers’ expectations.”