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Imported Meat - Buy British

In 2010, an investigation by the Guardian found that we import a quarter of our meat from nations that are significantly weaker on animal welfare regulations. Why? The brutal truth is that better welfare (like the standards we can proudly own to having in Britain) means more expensive meat. Complying to high welfare standards means that it can cost a British farmer up to 12p more a kilo to produce meat.

To take the example of pork, we import an astonishing 40% of our fresh and frozen pork, and 80% of our bacon from countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany, where welfare standards mostly fail to cut the mustard. However, take a look at demand for British pork in such countries; it has slumped by a staggering 36%. What’s more, imported products can be misleadingly labelled as British, though they may have only been processed in the UK.

Despite our own high standards, there are no restrictions on importing meat from countries that do not impose such regulations, where production costs can often undercut the high costs we have in the UK. What is the implication of this? On an unashamedly cut-throat market, it knocks us out of the running. These high British welfare standards include shed space, medical treatment, and bedding conditions. Recent studies have found that in in Brazil, cattle can be dehorned or branded without anaesthetic. In Germany, 89% of pig farms provided no bedding for their animals, and in Brazil, besides other European countries, higher stocking of poultry is allowed, where in the UK it is illegal. In the Netherlands, a spokesman for one animal welfare group, Varkens in Nood (Pigs in Distress) had this to say about industrial pig farming “There’s nothing natural about this whatsoever. It’s what this country does. Welfare doesn’t come into it.”

After all, we are what we eat, and the conditions in which an animal was reared should be a factor in what we choose to buy. It is difficult to judge a book by its cover, and these days it’s even more obscure to judge a piece of meat by its label. Nevertheless, we should support the British farming industry, remembering that each mouthful has had to attain to a standard that is almost unmatched.

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