Co-op backs British bacon

The Co-operative Group is converting its entire range of own-brand bacon, gammon and fresh pork to British in an initiative to support UK farmers and to raise animal welfare standards.

The Co-operative has signed up some 300 British pig farms to make the momentous move from Danish to British bacon. The initiative means that all pigs for The Co-operative's own-brand bacon will be reared as a minimum to the Red Tractor standard.

The move on bacon, which will be completed by 2 February 2009, is particularly significant, because it accounts for 54% of all sales within the retailer's £87m bacon and pork category.

Own-brand gammon will be switched to British at the same time, and the consumer-owned retailer has also secured enough additional supplies to convert all its own-brand pre-packed hams (excluding Continental hams) to British pork by the end of March 2009. All The Co-operative brand fresh pork and sausages are already from British-reared pigs.

At the same time, the retailer is planning to introduce even higher-welfare criteria to all its own-brand standard fresh pork by autumn 2009, when all the pork will be from pigs reared within the UK to The Co-operative's own higher-welfare Elmwood specification.

This follows the recent move to using only outdoor-reared Freedom Food-accredited Hampshire pork in The Co-operative's premium Truly Irresistible range of fresh pork, bacon and sausages.

The retailer's continuing commitment to improving animal welfare standards is in line with The Co-operative's ground-breaking Food Ethical Policy, launched in February 2008, based on the responses of more than 100,000 customer-members across the UK. Animal welfare emerged as one of the main areas that members wished to see prioritised by the business.

As a result, The Co-operative converted its entire range of own-brand fresh chicken (whole birds and portions) to its higher-welfare Elmwood standard or above in spring 2008.

Debbie Robinson, director of Food Retail Marketing at The Co-operative Group, said: "We are determined to deliver on our commitments to our customer members by leading the way on animal welfare issues and our support for British farmers. The challenge has been to secure sufficient British supplies in what is a difficult market."

Compassion in World Farming chief executive Philip Lymbery said: "We're really pleased The Co-operative is turning its back on lower-welfare pork. A switch to British pork under its own label is fantastic news for hundreds of thousands of pigs, which will be out of sow stalls due to this move. This shows real leadership on a key issue of concern for Compassion in World Farming and consumers alike."

David Clarke, chief executive of Assured Food Standards, which runs the Red Tractor scheme, commented: "We are delighted by The Co-operative's commitment to sourcing Red Tractor-approved pigs, representing their high standards of quality, food safety and traceability, as well as animal welfare. This initiative provides a great opportunity to communicate an extremely positive message to consumers, which we are only too pleased to support."

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