Sunday 18 February 2018

Half of pork and bacon in butchers' shops not Irish

Flying the flag for Irish meat: Noel McNamara, master butcher
at the O’Crualaoi shop in Ballincollig, Co Cork. Photo: Provision.
Flying the flag for Irish meat: Noel McNamara, master butcher at the O’Crualaoi shop in Ballincollig, Co Cork. Photo: Provision.

Aideen Sheehan

More than half the pork and bacon tested in butchers' shops is not Irish, according to an investigation by the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA).

DNA tests carried out on 120 pork products from 11 shops around the country found that 51pc of the tested products were not Irish.

The tests, carried out by genetic specialists IdentiGEN, found that half the products tested did not match the DNA records in their database of Irish boars, which meant they must have been imported.

And none of the butchers' shops surveyed displayed country-of-origin labelling for their pork, the IFA found.

Although this is not a legal requirement for pigmeat, it can help consumers make informed choices about the meat they're buying, according to the IFA.

The IFA said it was disappointing that even butchers' shops that were member of the Association of Craft Butchers of Ireland (ACBI) did not indicate on labels where the bacon came from, despite having a commitment to do so in their Certified Craft Butchers Programme.

"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' shops audited," said IFA pigs committee chairman Pat O'Flaherty.

Nine of the 11 shops surveyed were ACBI members. However, the ACBI said that all its members were fully legally compliant with all labelling requirements. ACBI chief executive John Hickey said that 56pc of the products in the ACBI shops surveyed were Irish, compared with just 14pc of the products in the other non-affiliated butchers' shops.

They encouraged all ACBI butchers to source Irish meat where possible, but said this was not always available at the right price and quality.

"If Irish pork products were competitive and consistent in quality we would be selling more of them," he said. However, the survey was quite a small sample, given the ACBI had 400 members, he added.

It was not a legal requirement to label where pork and bacon came from, but any consumer could find out by simply asking the butcher, who had to maintain full traceability records on all their produce, said Mr Hickey.

The results of this round of DNA testing were similar to a survey carried out by the IFA last year, which checked the origins of packaged pork and bacon on sale in Irish supermarkets.

The IFA did not disclose the names of the butchers' shops selling imported pork and bacon. However, it did single out a number of "star performers" among the butchers audited which were found to be strong supporters of the Irish meat industry.

These were O Crualaoi Butchers, which operates four stores in Co Cork, and Quinn's butchers in Shannon, Co Clare.

O Crualaoi managing director Francis Twohig said they sourced Irish pork and bacon from a local west Cork processor, Stauntons, and killed their own cattle for beef.

"We fly the flag for Irish produce because we feel Ireland is blessed with the best meat. We have a strong brand," he said.

They were well known for sourcing meat locally and this was a particularly important selling point in west Cork, which had helped them survive in business since 1957, employing 100 staff, he said.

Irish Independent

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