British restaurants may soon see a rise in consumer demand for locally reared pork, ham and bacon if Jamie Oliver’s latest campaign influences the nation’s food choices in the same way as his Fowl Dinners programme.
At the end of this month Channel 4 will screen Oliver’s latest programme Jamie Saves Our Bacon, in which the chef will highlight the plight of the country’s pig industry, which is currently diminishing at an alarming rate.
BPEX, supporters of the British pig levy payers, said that while the industry was in ‘dire straits’, Oliver’s programme would raise some much needed awareness for the plight of producers. Jon Bullock, spokesperson for BPEX, said restaurants should start buying local now to show their support and fulfil a surge in customer demand.
“More and more people are interested in where their food comes from, and provenance is a good selling point,” said Jon Bullock, spokesperson for BPEX. “Restaurants should start making sure their pork comes from the farm down the road, or that their imported products are at the same welfare standards.”
Over the last 10 years, the number of British sows has halved from 800,000 to 400,000, and is predicted to divide again by 2018 due to overwhelming competition from EU mass producers with lower welfare standards. Oliver said his programme, due to air on 29 January, would be a ‘unique opportunity’ to appeal to the public to start buying British and save the pig industry.
“Earlier this year we showed that if you give consumers the facts about chicken welfare they will make up their own minds - and the sales of higher welfare chickens and eggs have gone through the roof as a result,” Oliver said. “Now I want to see if we can do the same for pigs.
The programme, shown as part of the channel’s Great British Food Fight season, will see Oliver follow the pork production process, British supermarket’s misleading labelling system and how UK farmers’ higher welfare standards have left them open to competition from cheaper and more unethical EU producers.
A spokesperson for the British Hospitality Association said the programme would be ‘beneficial’ to restaurants stocking British meat, helping to boost their reputation. “Consumer pressure can be very strong as Jamie`s chicken/eggs campaigns have proved. The greater the consumer awareness, the greater the pressure on producers and end-users - in this case, caterers.
“We shall have to see how strong this pressure becomes but restaurants that use meat from farms that treat their animals with consideration for their welfare will certainly be able to promote it, possibly gaining additional custom - and not just from animal-lovers.”
Jamie Saves Our Bacon will screen just weeks after a government report on the British pig industry suggested DEFRA works more to improve its efficiency and productivity to ensure a fairer market and prevent further decline.