Large amount of pork eaten here imported despite 'full Irish' image
Published 09/05/2011 | 05:00
CONSUMERS tucking into a 'full Irish breakfast' made with Irish brands could be eating meat from a completely different country.
Some of the country's leading brands producing pork products have admitted the meat they sell isn't always Irish.
Consumers are being urged to eat only homegrown produce this week -- but an Irish Independent survey found that this goal could be scuppered by breakfast.
Many of the best-known pork brands in the country peddle a strong Irish image to the public -- but in fact, large quantities of sausages, rashers and ham on sale are imported meat.
This detail is not available on most labels, no matter what kind of rural idyll or traditional family heritage they portray.
Lax EU labelling requirements mean companies are operating within the law when they don't state where pigmeat comes from. Imported pork processed here can legally be labelled as Irish under the "substantial transformation" rule.
This is allowed when 30pc of value is added to the meat on Irish soil -- even though this can involve as little as adding salt, water and packaging. Irish pig farmers have become so frustrated at the lack of transparency about where pigmeat originates, they are now compiling a DNA database of the country's pigs to prove what is and isn't Irish.
The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) wants to use DNA fingerprinting to ensure processors, retailers and restaurants source more Irish meat.
IFA executive secretary Amii Cahill said Irish people eat much more pork than beef or lamb -- around 36kg of it per person a year.
"It's the breakfast fry, or the ham sandwich or BLT for lunch, it adds up to a huge part of our diet, so people should know where it's coming from. If they want to buy imports that's fine, but they should know that when they're buying them," she said.
Kerry Foods, which make the best-selling Denny, Galtee and Roscrea brands, told the Irish Independent not all of the pigmeat used in them was Irish.
Those products which are guaranteed Irish, bear the Bord Bia Quality Assured mark.
A Kerry spokesman said that it could not guarantee that all its other pork products were Irish, although a large proportion were. "We cannot guarantee on a 52-week year basis that all our pigmeat is Irish and the reason is serious fluctuation of demand in the market," he said.
"That means we cannot always source the particular muscle specification and cut for a product in Ireland, but it would be impossible to alter packaging at short notice to reflect that," he added.
He said Kerry was the biggest purchaser of Irish pigmeat in the country, and all its labelling claims such as "the taste the nation loves" were true.
Olhausen said that 60pc of the pork it used was Irish, with products in the quality assured scheme using 100pc Irish meat as required. "It's down to price and availability. We're an Irish company employing 180 people, but we cannot always source enough Irish pork to meet consumer demand at the price they can afford," said chief executive Lar Malone.
He suggested farmers couldn't have it both ways as Ireland exports 132,000 tonnes of pigmeat a year compared to 76,000 tonnes that are imported.
The Food Safety Authority said there had been no breaches of labelling rules brought to their attention in recent times, but the restrictions for pork were much less stringent than for beef, as country of origin didn't have to be indicated.