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Walls sausages reluctant to come clean on origin of pork

Ecologist

26th January, 2010

Owner of Walls, Mattessons and Richmond sausage brands says telling public where meat comes from would 'add cost' and 'jeopardise our brand positioning'

Popular pork brands Walls and Richmond are unlikely to introduce country of origin labeling on their packaging, according to the company that owns them.

The UK Government has been pushing for retailers and food manufacturers to be more open about where meat comes from.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference earlier this month, environment secretary Hilary Benn said, 'we do want to know where our food was produced'.

However, Stan McCarthy, CEO of Kerry Foods, which owns brands including Walls, Mattesons and Richmond sausages, has said signing up to such a scheme would, 'jeopardise our brand positioning and our business overall'.

Speaking to Tracy Worcester, campaigner and director of the film 'Pig Business', McCarthy went on to say it would also 'add costs'.

'Many of our consumers are not prepared to pay, [and] cannot afford, the price that it demands. And that’s not about the fact that Kerry’s making more money or anything like that, it does carry itself at a premium. There are a lot of people that maybe cannot afford it in these challenging times.'

McCarthy said the company could also not guarantee where their supplies might come from.

'Fifty per cent of the pork utilisation in this country is served by UK producers; the rest has to be imported. So from that perspective for us to ensure that we have a guaranteed supply, and by putting a label on it where you don’t really have that guaranteed supply, there’s a certain risk to it,' he said.

A spokesperson for the Kerry Group has since said the company has not ruled out adding origin labeling in the future and is 'discussing it internally'.

Worcester, whose groundbreaking expose of US industrial pig farming conglomerate Smithfield Foods and was repeatedly threatened by lawyers acting on behalf of the company, said it was hardly suprising to hear the Kerry Group's opposition to honest labelling.

Writing for the Ecologist, Worcester says of McCarthy:
'Who can blame him? His company has to compete with the other manufacturers that sell the cheapest pork without labels, and no one will jump first if they don’t have to. And let's face it - a label disclosing that the pork in your sausage comes from all over the EU is not good PR. Voluntary labelling means manufacturers will probably ignore it.'

Worcester says without a label the pork is likely to be from animals that have been raised in 'horrendous conditions' in factory farms where animal welfare laws are routinely broken.

She called for a ban on the import of pigmeat reared with lower welfare standards. 'If your country's animal welfare and health standards are higher, it shouldn't be deemed a barrier to free trade if that country refuses to import products with lower standards,' she said.

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