Yesterday evening I made a point of watching "Jamie Saves Our Bacon" on Channel4. This programme of about an hour and a half was all about chef Jamie Oliver's continuing quest to encourage people to buy British reared high welfare meat. In his usual way Oliver didn't spare his audience any of the less pretty details of pig farming, so we were shown a vet helping a piglet being born by thrusting his arm up you can imagine where, piglets being castrated, having tails docked, a sow being artificially inseminated and the end of a pig's life in an abattoir. None of this was a problem for me as, being a country lad, I was pretty aware of the various aspects of a pig's life (and death). I can imagine though that there might well have been a few more people becoming vegetarian by the end of the show but it is absolutely right in my opinion that viewers be properly informed of these things. Although a meat eater myself I have to admit that I'm not sorry that there are other people prepared to do the slaughtering!
A comparison was made between the much improved pig welfare in this country and the less than impressive rearing of these intelligent animals on parts of the Continent. As with chicken production there are a variety of standards ranging from truly free range to pigs confined to buildings with slatted floors (ie no straw bedding). However in the UK the hated sow crates in which the pig has no facility to move were banned I think about ten years ago whereas farmers in Europe have yet to finally catch up so far as this basic welfare standard is concerned. Not a level playing field yet then in the EU - we voluntarily went ahead with banning sow crates here.
Another point of particular note made by Mr Oliver: we could assist our farmers in the price they get for their animals by making far more use of the front end of the pig particularly roasting a shoulder instead of concentrating on leg and loin. He also tried to shame buyers from the supermarkets and from other large users of pork/bacon such as the House of Lords and Scotland Yard to going down the "Buy British" route. Finally he flagged up the woefully inadequate labelling systems which lead to many shoppers wanting to buy the reared in UK product only to find that it has originated somewhere else.
I'm not that enamoured by Jamie Oliver as a person but he has to be said that he did a very important job with this programme and one can only hope that it will aid the survival of the British pig industry.