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The origin of a labelling grumble

I must confess to some major frustration about country of origin labelling when it comes to pork and pork products.

If you go into any supermarket these days, you have no idea if the pork or pork product is locally grown.

For example, we had some Beehive Ham that had ‘New Zealand’s most delicious’ in large letters on the front label. Go to the back of the packet and, in very small lettering, you can read, ‘made in NZ using pork raised in one or more of the countries below. Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, UK, Spain, Sweden, USA’

Having seen pigs raised in quite a few of those countries, I don’t want to consume any of it.

Going into the local supermarket, I couldn’t find a brand of bacon that used New Zealand pork. Despite what’s on the front of the packet, the minute lettering on the back says basically the same as Beehive. Farmland, Pam’s, Hellers and Grandpa’s all use imported pork.

The manufacturing companies have no idea of the hygiene standards, animal welfare or whatever of the pork they import. Understandably because it’s cheaper, they use it.

The bureaucrats are obviously not policing the labelling, meaning local farmers are disadvantaged.

The good news is that as of last month, the law could be tightened.

The industry body, New Zealand Pork, took a complaint to Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee saying that manufacturers could still advertise a product as ‘made in New Zealand’ even when the fine print stated it was made with imported meat.

The Committee’s report recommended the government consider amending the regulations to prevent potential misrepresentation of country of origin food labelling.

In the believe it or not category, an MBIE spokesperson confirmed it was considering the recommendation, although when work would be completed would be ‘subject to the priorities and commitments of the government’.

What a massive cop-out. The average New Zealand consumer and pork producers deserve a lot better. I’ll be monitoring the situation.

New Zealand pig farmers and consumers deserve more than they’re getting.

The issue is that New Zealand farmers have massive regulations, whereas the countries we import from generally don’t.

New Zealand pig farmers are world leaders when it comes to animal welfare. That has a cost which farmers are bearing. That means that locally-produced pork is more expensive than imported pork that doesn’t meet those high welfare standards.

Despite that, our animal welfare committee [NAWAC] has decided that welfare standards should increase further, putting the price of pork up an additional 18 per cent at the farmgate, and making imported pork even more attractive.

Imported pork isn’t raised under the welfare regime that is operating in NZ now. Under international trading rules NZ cannot set welfare standards for imported pork. Despite that, we intend to raise the so-called welfare bar in New Zealand, making local pork less economic.

Because it is cheaper, 60 per cent of the pig meat we consume is imported. With ham and bacon, that figure is nearly 85 per cent.

Hopefully, that is about to change with the recommended new labelling system and adequate policing of it. Hopefully, that will mean that we will, once again, have a viable pork industry in the Wairarapa.

Alan Emerson is a semi-retired writer, farmer and businessman living in Wairarapa. He writes a weekly column for Farmers Weekly and has written and/or edited five books.

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