Pork and Pork Products
All Co-op fresh pork and sausages are all sourced from British farms. As well as sourcing British bacon we also source a small number of bacon products from pork farms in Denmark. We do this to ensure we are able to provide our customers with consistent availability of bacon all year round, at great value. As you would expect, we require our suppliers in Denmark to rear their pigs to equivalent welfare standards.2016: The Pig Industry in Crisis
The pig industry is currently suffering from what it calls “the worst period of low prices for over half a decade” due to European Union over supply.
British pig farmers make a significant contribution to the rural economy and uphold high animal welfare standards yet many are being forced to give up. Now, more than ever, is the time to support British pork producers.
The major pig organisations have come together to release the following statement:
“Even though this country is only 40 percent self-sufficient in pork, our farmers are losing up to £10 on every pig they sell, as a result of European Union over-supply. Without the support of the rest of the food-chain, serious contraction in the national pig herd is inevitable. This will mean even more imports of lower-welfare pork in future.”
“Some players in the British industry have already signalled their intention to scale back or quit. To prevent a much larger exodus before the European Union market starts to rebalance towards the end of this year, we are calling on all players who rely on a thriving domestic pig sector to take the following actions:
Processors: Don’t exploit the current period of over-supply to increase your margins. You’re already in profit, your suppliers aren’t.
Independent butchers: Your customers assume the pork you sell is British. If you must sell cheap imported product, be honest and label it prominently as such.
Foodservice: A majority of diners prefer their meat to be British. Serve British pork and please remember to signal the fact on your table and wall menus.
Retailers: If you already source 100 percent British fresh pork, thank you. If you don’t, make a commitment immediately to source at least another five percent British.
Consumers: Pork is particularly good value at present as pig farmers are being paid at 2007 levels for their pigs. Please always make a point of checking the pork, bacon, ham and sausages you buy are British.
Pig farmers: Keep taking a pride in the excellent job you do to produce healthy, nutritious British pork. Your commitment to improving efficiency and animal welfare deserves recognition by consumers and everyone in the production chain.
“With your help, we can safeguard the future of the higher-welfare British pig industry.”
Chairman, AHDB Pork
Chairman, Assured Food Standards
Chairman, British Pig Association
Chairman, National Pig Association
Chairman, Quality Meat Scotland
President, National Farmers Union
President, Pig Veterinary Society
Why Buy British Pork?
- In the UK, the Pig Health and Welfare Council drives, some of the highest welfare standards in the world and improves the way that pigs are reared.
- No growth-promoting hormones are used to feed pigs in the UK. Antibiotics are used as little as possible but as much as necessary for health reasons and only when prescribed by a vet.
- The distance between farm and shop is smaller than for imported pork. Local meat means fresher meat with a smaller carbon footprint.
- The top 12 native British pigs breeds are – British Landrace, Hampshire, Middle White, Gloucester Old Spot, Tamworth, British Saddleback, Large White, Large Black, Welsh, British Lop, Berkshire, Oxford Sandy and Black. The majority of pork reared in the UK will be a large White hybrid
- More than 90% of pigs are raised in the UK to standards which includes compulsory recording of antibiotic use since April 2017 and welfare standards higher than European legislation requires.
- Any imported product that comes from a country that uses sow stalls, even if only for a few days post weaning, would be illegal here. Our national legislation bans use of stalls apart from during service.
How to tell if Pork is British
Pork, bacon & ham labelled 'British' must come from animals born, reared and slaughtered within the UK. If you are not buying direct from a farmer you might find it helpful to look for a quality mark. These mean that all stages of the food chain have been independently checked to ensure that they meet the required standards.
The primary standards for pork as as follows.
The 'Specially Selected Pork' label guarantees that the pigs were born, reared and slaughtered in Scotland under the highest welfare and animal husbandry standards.
The British Pig Association allows the Quality Pedigree Pork mark to appear on pork that has been produced locally from British pedigree breeds.
When looking to purchase pork, keep an eye out for logos and marks
For more information on logos and marks visit our Logos and Marks page.
Which Cut of Pork is Best?
We tend to equate 'eating quality' with tenderness and succulence. It is therefore important to use the correct cut of meat for a particular dish: for example, boned spare rib of pork for roasting, pork tenderloins for pan-frying or belly of pork for slow-roasting.
Our Beef Fact Sheet is a diagram of where different cuts of meat come from on the carcass and a guide to which cuts are the best ones to use for different regional dishes. It can be downloaded from the blue box on this page.
Breeds to look out for
There are 14 breeds of pig in the UK including:
The Berkshire: the oldest pedigree pig recorded in Great Britain. The pork is finely textured. Japanese buyers consider Berkshires from Britain to be a speciality.
The Large White: long bodied producing excellent hams.
The British Saddleback: a dual-purpose pig producing good pork and bacon. It has secured a niche in outdoor and organic production.
The Middle White: known as 'the London Porker' in the early 20th Century. The pork is well-marbled which makes it a good breed to use when serving 'suckling pig'.
Gloucestershire Old Spots: traditionally raised on windfall apples from the local orchards and whey, the by-products of the local cheese-making. Local folklore has it that the black spots on the pig were caused by falling apples! The pig has a fine carcass produces meat for all purposes. When roasted, the Gloucestershire Old Spot produces excellent cracking but the pork is also used in making the Gloucester sausage and can be cured for bacon.
Oxford Sandy and Black: one of Britain's oldest pig breeds, they produce fine quality white skinned pork and bacon with superb flavour.
The Hampshire: developed in the US from British breeding stock and now one of the world's most important pig breeds producing an abundance of lean meat.
The Pietrain: renowned for its very high yield of lean meat, it formed the foundation of the Walls Meat Company's pork production. Most commonly available as a cross-bred.
The British Landrace: originally imported from Sweden in 1949, has a high lean meat content, in a superbly fleshed carcass, which is ideal for either fresh pork or bacon production.
The Tamworth: the oldest pure English breed that is sometimes crossed with wild boar to produce distinctive gamy pork. Produces white-fleshed carcasses with long sides and big hams.
The Large Black: a black pig with a succulent taste and high eating quality.
What is Bacon?
Bacon is the word used for the raw pig meat that has been wet or dry-cured. The word bacon means 'back' but in fact refers to cuts from the side of the carcass that is butchered in a similar way to the butchering of pork. 'Gammon' is the word used for the raw, cured hind leg of a pig removed from a side of bacon.
Examples of traditionally cured bacons:
Suffolk Sweet-Cured Bacon: a cure of salt and coarse brown sugar gives a distinctively sweet flavour, with hint of molasses. At the same time, the bacon is very salty and the flavour is underpinned with a slight acid note. The bacon is smoked after curing.
Wiltshire Bacon: the unique flavour of this bacon comes from the combination of a mild cure and the fact that the pigs are fed on home-grown wheat and whey from the local cheese-making. It is available smoked or green.
Welsh Bacon: the Welsh cure produces very salty bacon with a good flavour. The bacon is not smoked after curing. It is not easily available other than in West Wales.
Ayrshire Bacon: the cure used in Ayrshire bacon is very mild and lightly salted; much of the flavour comes from the breed (Great White) and quality of the pig. It is available smoked or green.
'Tendersweet' bacon: a dry cure with a high sugar content giving a mild flavour. It is available smoked or green.
What is Ham?
Ham is the term used to describe cured and cooked pork. It is generally the hind leg of a pig; shoulder is used too but this is not technically 'ham'. More confusingly, it also refers to cured hind leg that has been air-dried and is usually sliced very thinly and served cold. Both can be smoked or left green after curing.
Examples of traditionally cured hams:
York Ham: a rich salty ham, with distinct pork flavour and a dry texture. It is not smoked after curing.
Cumberland Ham: when cooked this ham has a deep, pronounced ham flavour that is slightly spicy and heavily salted. Not to be confused with Cumbria Air-Dried Ham for which a similar cure is used but it is air-dried and so can be eaten raw.
Bradenham Ham: an unsmoked cured ham from Wiltshire with a delicate, sweet and mild flavour thanks to the marinade of molasses and spices.
What is the curing process?
Bacon and ham is either dry-cured, producing a drier finish and fuller, more pronounced flavour, or wet-cured, producing a succulent and seasoned product more moist than the dry cured product and different in texture but no less equal in quality. The cured bacon and ham can then be smoked or left 'green' (unsmoked).
The British Banger
There are over 400 varieties of sausages available in Britain today, many named after the places they were originally made. A good British sausage is juicy and plump with a meat content of at least 70%. Sausages can be made from other minced meats but they are most often associated with minced pork.
Here are some examples of regional sausages but why not try and find out about your local sausage or come up with your own sausage recipe?
Cumberland: a coarse sausage highly seasoned with black pepper and spices; it is sold unlinked but curled. The Cumberland Sausage Association is currently seeking European protection for the Cumberland sausage.
Lincolnshire: a rich, meaty pork sausage with a distinctly herby flavour, normally sage or thyme.
Gloucester: a sausage traditionally made with distinctive Gloucester Old Spot pork, sage and apples.
Marylebone: a pork sausage to which London butchers traditionally added mace, ginger and sage.
Oxford: a pork and veal sausage to which lemon, sage, savory and marjoram are added to balance the flavours.
Welsh: a pork sausage flecked with green leek.
Suffolk: a course sausage made with sage and thyme.
Visit our Sourcing page for information on sourcing British pork and pork products.