Writing in a letter to Meat Trade Journal’s sister title, The Grocer, Houston attacked the BRC’s stance that supermarkets have no influence over prices paid to pig farmers, saying it was “somewhere between disingenuous and rubbish”.
“The price supermarkets pay abattoirs/processors automatically ‘manages’ the prices paid to pig (and other) farmers,” he said. With pig farmers racking up losses of £3m a week while retailers net £16m profits and processors £8m a week on the sale of pork and pork product, “Where in that is the ‘fair return’ Mr Opie refers to?” he asked.
“When he refers to balance and an affordable shop price for consumers, Opie displays a breathtaking disregard for the lamentable double standards demonstrated by certain major retailers in their pursuit of profits at others’ expense," Houston continued. That a number of supermarkets are importing greatly increased volumes of cheaper pork products, produced to lower welfare standards, is “hardly consistent with the vacuous CSR policies his members frequently hide behind, with their statements of support for British and Red Tractor”.
“If British supermarkets want to destroy any opportunity for improved sustainability in an important sector of food production, they are going the right way about it,” Houston concluded.
This comes as an Early Day Motion is gathering support across the benches of the House of Commons. Proposed by industry champion Richard Bacon MP, among the sponsors was Labour MP Natascha Engel, who questioned Minister Jim Paice on the topic last week in Parliament. The motion has already been signed by 53 MPs and calls on supermarkets and processors to support high levels of animal welfare and pay UK farmers a fair price for their pigs to reverse the “crippling” losses that will have “a devastating effect on jobs in rural communities” if allowed to continue.
The signatories straddle all areas of the political spectrum and include MPs from all parts of the UK. Some have already shown their support for the industry in Parliament, while others supported the Pig Rally three weeks ago by signing the giant sausage stationed in Westminster.