The Co-op has announced it will sell all of its own-brand fresh pork from 100 percent outdoor pigs reared on RSPCA Assured farms.
From July, the retailer will sell all of its own-brand fresh pork, bacon, sausage, gammon and ham, from outdoor reared pigs in a bid to bolster the retailer’s animal welfare credentials.
It will mean that all pigs within its producer group will be born outdoors and raised in well-ventilated, spacious straw barns to strict RSPCA welfare standards on farms across the UK.
By partnering with Tulip Ltd, the UK’s largest high-welfare pig producer, the Co-op has been able to establish an RSCPA Assured, outdoor-bred pork supply chain offering traceability from farm to fork in which pigs are able to express more natural behaviours.
Defra Farming Minister George Eustice said there is “growing consumer interest” in food provenance and animal welfare.
The announcement comes as the RSPCA suggests specially targeted farm subsidies which could improve animal welfare to meet the ambitions for the highest quality food standards post-Brexit.
As plans progress for the UK to leave the EU, the government is considering the best options for supporting farmers once the EU farm subsidy ‘CAP’ system ends.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove said: “As we leave the EU we will deliver a Green Brexit, not only maintaining but enhancing animal welfare standards.”
Jo Whitfield, Retail CEO at the Co-op, said customers shop with the retailer because of its “passion” for higher animal welfare.
“The highest animal welfare standards should not just be the preserve of top-tier products and we want to ensure that the very best quality British pork is available at everyday affordable prices”, Ms Whitfield said.
“We will be working hard with innovative and passionate British farmers who share our principles, to provide exceptional quality pork produce with a conscience.”
Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming, said: “We wholeheartedly congratulate the Co-op for making this move to higher welfare pig production across both their standard and premium own brand products.
“By doing so they are not only addressing key issues such as confinement and the need to provide pigs with a stimulating environment, but they are making higher welfare the norm and meeting their customers’ expectations.”