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UK Pig & Poultry Fair: Promote British products

The Headline Debate at the British Pig & Poultry Fair 'Can we get consumers to buy more British pig and poultry products?' concluded that more can be done to encourage consumers to buy British, but finances are needed for a campaign.

Chairing the debate, BBC presenter and farmer Adam Henson revealed, through a show of hands, that the audience unanimously agreed that the industry is not doing enough to promote British products.

The scope to improve the allegiance to British products through better awareness was reflected in video footage of recent consumer visits organised by RASE and ABN to a broiler unit and an intensive pig unit. The groups of consumers were very encouraged with the welfare standards being met on these units and the appearance of the livestock, which dismissed many of the myths they held regarding British livestock production systems. A number thought, for example, broiler birds were reared in small cages and force fed – comments that ‘astonished’ poultry farmer host and panel member Jonty Hay.

Lack of recognition

Also alarming though, was the lack of recognition of the UK Red Tractor logo introduced more than 10 years ago. Consumers were unsure of the message given on the Red Tractor logo and how this related, along with other labelling details, to production systems and country of origin. Following their visits, consumers felt they would be more discerning regarding country of origin and look especially for the Red Tractor and Union Jack logo.

Bill Thurston, MD of Vion and panel member, commented that the consumer perceptions of production systems were 20 years out of date and there was a lack of trust on food labelling.

“This lack of understanding is something that needs addressing quickly,” said panel member Andrew Nicholson from the Co-op. “We need to inform consumers – the young and those with the cheque book.” He went on to tell the audience that consumers make their purchasing decisions in approx. 3 seconds so ‘buy British’ needs to be high on their list of priorities.

“We have had a superb event, with the highest attendance figure in recent years of 9768 visitors,” says Alice Bell of the organisers, the Royal Agricultural Society of England, “Exhibitors have reported record numbers of enquiries from producers looking to improve and expand their businesses, which can only be good for the sector.”

The next British Pig and Poultry Fair will take place at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire in May 2012.

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Natalie Berkhout

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