Half of butchers’ pork and bacon was imported

Rashers may sound quintessentially Irish, but a survey has found that half the bacon and pork tested in butchers’ shops was imported.

That is despite the fact most of the shops surveyed were signed up to a voluntary code committing them to sourcing their products locally.

The Irish Farmers Association put 120 samples of back rashers, bacon joints, and pork chops from 11 butchers around the country through DNA testing to check origin.

Pat O’Flaherty, chairman of the IFA’s national pigs and pigmeat committee, said he was disappointed with the finding that 51% of the products were from abroad.

“The level of imported product identified by the DNA testing is compounded by the fact that the country of origin was not displayed in any of the butchers’ stores audited,” said Mr O’Flaherty.

“Over 80% of the locations are part of the Certified Craft Butchers Programme, yet none carried country of origin labelling on these pork products.”

John Hickey, chief executive of the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland, stressed the imported products did not break any law and, as most would have come from other EU countries, there were no doubts about quality.

He said while members were committed to local produce, this was not always practical as Irish pork and bacon was often too costly and it could be hard to get consistency in size, shape, and quality.

“We have to respond to market forces and what the market is saying to us is that pork coming from other European countries can offer better value to customers and at times offer a more consistent product,” Mr Hickey said.

“We want to support Irish but if we put in all-Irish product we’re not competitive.”

Mr O’Flaherty said: “We appreciate that the local butcher is under pressures. However, that is not an excuse to mislead the consumer on the origin of their meat.”

While Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland members are supposed to use country-of-origin labelling, Mr Hickey denied there was any attempt to mislead customers.

“We encourage our members, where possible, to communicate countries of origin,” he said. “We can’t force them. But they didn’t misrepresent their products.”

A fresh round of DNA testing in butchers’ shops is to start next month.

“We will continue to work with the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland to rectify these problems,” Mr O’Flaherty said.

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