Call for Clear Labelling on Supermarket and Branded Pork, Bacon and Gammon

Union Shelfwatch finds consumers confused by poor labelling

NFU Scotland’s latest shelfwatch, looking at almost 35,000 packs of pork, bacon and gammon in 47 supermarket stores, has found that consumers will often struggle to identify just where the meat has come from.

Marks & Spencer, Co-op and Waitrose were the only supermarkets found to offer 100% British pork, bacon and gammon.  All other supermarkets were found to be stocking fresh and processed pork, bacon and gammon products from a wide range of different countries of origin including the UK, Denmark, Holland, Germany and Ireland.  More worryingly, some own-label and branded products were labelled with more than one country of origin such as ‘Germany and Holland’ or even as broadly labelled as just ‘EU’. All too often, packs had no clear indication of where the meat has actually come from.

The results showed six percent bacon, gammon and pork packs had an unclear or confusing country of origin; five percent had mixed countries of origin on the same pack (eg. Germany/Holland) and 15 percent listed the ‘EU’ as the country of origin.
NFU Scotland will be working with supermarkets going forward to encourage them to take the lead from Marks and Spencers, Waitrose and the Co-op when it comes to Country of Origin Labelling. It makes sense for a business to be transparent with its consumers and offer them the choice they deserve.

NFU Scotland’s Food Chain Policy Manager Lindsey Macdonald said: “The lack of transparency found on some products, particularly processed goods, is alarming and is indicative of how little care is shown to label meat that is considered anything other than ‘fresh meat’.

“It is a hard fact that the ‘last point of processing’ oval on meat packaging does not tell customers where their meat has actually come from.   NFUS is calling on supermarkets and brands to clearly label the origin of all their pork, bacon and gammon products in order to help their customers make informed decisions without having to find the small print somewhere on the back of a pack of bacon. It should never be a guessing game or an assumption to establish where your meat has come from.

“The shelfwatch survey also showed that fake farm branding remains a huge problem and contributes to confusion. As an example, pig meat products bearing the ‘Woodside Farm’ brand at Tesco were, when examined, found to be from various countries around the EU and not one single source.

“Going forward, I intend to work closely with the supermarkets falling short to help establish better transparency for customers and to celebrate those leading the way on provenance. I will also be liaising with other bodies to establish whether any breaches in labelling have occurred.  In addition, NFUS continues to lobby for better Country of Origin Labelling following Brexit.”  

Notes to Editors

  • NFU Scotland’s shelf watch surveyed 47 supermarket stores across Scotland, looking at pork, bacon and gammon offerings. Results showed 6% of bacon, gammon and pork had an unclear of confusing country of origin, 5% had mixed countries of origin on the same pack (eg. Germany/Holland), 15% listed the ‘EU’ as the country of origin and only Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and the Co-op offered 100% British pork, bacon and gammon. Overall, 34,703 packs of pork, bacon and gammon were counted. The NFUS pork, bacon & gammon shelfwatch survey took place between 29 September and 04 October 2017.  
  • In summary, the shelf watch findings were:
    • Country of Origin Totals: UK: 14,504 (42%); Denmark: 7497 (22%); ‘EU’: 5164 (15%); Mixed origin: 1844 (5%); Unclear/Unknown origin: 2059 (6%); Holland: 2157 (6%); Germany: 1033 (3%); Ireland: 545 (1%)
    • Waitrose – Total number of packs: 322 – British 322 [100%].   Stores visited: Stirling
    • Marks and Spencer – Total number of packs: 579 – British 579 [100%].   Stores visited: Dunblane; Edinburgh Gyle 
    • Sainsburys – Total number of packs: 3445 – British 1565 [45.5%]; Holland 1078 [31%]; Mixed origin 272 [8%]; Unknown/unclear 112 [3%]; Denmark 323 [9.5%]; EU 95 [3%].   Stores visited: Stirling, Bridge of Dee, Aberdeen Bedford Rd.
    • Co-op – Total number of packs: 1022 – British 1022 [100%].   Stores visited: Ingliston, Houston, Aberdeen Dyce, Turriff, Peterculter,  Fyvie, Newmachar.
    • Aldi – Total number of packs: 6656 – British 2995 [45%]; Ireland 545 [8%]; Holland 37 [1%]; Mixed origin 450 [7%]; Unknown/unclear 1681 [25%]; EU 948 [14%].   Stores visited: Stirling, Aberdeen Anderson Drive, Tullos, Beach Boulevard, Inverurie, Peterhead.
    • Lidl – Total number of packs: 4435 – British 2615 [59%]; Germany 105 [2%]; EU 1365 [31%]; Unknown/unclear 350 [8%].   Stores visited: Stirling; Aberdeen King Street; Lang Stracht; Fraserburgh; Inverurie.
    • Asda – Total number of packs: 7905 – British 1600 [20%]; Germany 548 [7%]; EU 1410 [18%]; Denmark 3008 [38%]; Mixed origin 722 [9%]; Holland 577 [7%]; Unknown/unclear 40 [1%].  Stores visited: Edinburgh; Bridge of Dee; Dyce; Aberdeen Jesmond Road; Huntly; Fraserburgh, Portlethen.  
    • Tesco – Total number of packs: 8384 – British 2677 [32%]; EU 260 [3%]; Denmark 4111 [49%]; Germany 380 [5%]; Holland 365 [4%]; Unknown/unclear 191 [2%]; Mixed origin 400 [5%].   Stores visited: Stirling; Dunfermline; Kilmarnock; Danestone; Portlethen; Inverurie; Keith; Huntly; Fraserburgh; Ellon; Turriff; Lang Stracht. 
    • Morrisons – Total number of packs: 2270 – British: 1129 [50%]; EU 1086 [48%]; Denmark 55 [2%].   Stores visited: Edinburgh Gyle; Aberdeen King Street; Inverurie; Peterhead.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 163/17

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About The Author

Bob Carruth

A dairy farmer’s son, I joined NFU Scotland in 1999 after 13 years as an agricultural journalist. Following spells as a regional manager and policy lead on milk, livestock and animal health and welfare, I became Communications Director in 2008.

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