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Ask the experts: Imported pork

Q: "I've read that a lot of the pork we buy in supermarkets comes from overseas. How can I tell whether my pork or ham or bacon is from New Zealand?"

Belinda

A: Nutritionist Rose Carr investigated the pork we're eating.

"According to the Pork Industry Board, in 1992 around 90% of the pork we consumed was grown in New Zealand, but as our total consumption has steadily increased since then, more of it has been imported and now New Zealand-grown pork only accounts for around 60% of what we're eating. Most of the imported pork is from Australia, Canada and the US and around 90% of it comes in frozen to be used in processed products like bacon and ham.

Because we don't have country of origin labelling, there's no way to tell where the pork in your bacon or ham comes from unless the manufacturer chooses to tell you on the pack. (Bacon or ham manufactured in New Zealand could still be made from imported pork. And a brand name like Kiwi is just that – a brand name – not an indication of where the pork was grown.)

Why is this important? New Zealand pork growers have a voluntary policy not to use added growth hormones but these are used in some of Australia's pork production, so with imported pork there's no way of knowing whether they've been used or not.

There's also no way to know what sort of welfare standards pigs have been raised with overseas. In New Zealand there is a welfare code for pig farming that sets out minimum standards. But farming practices in New Zealand do vary so you won't know how the pigs have been treated beyond this minimum standard unless the manufacturer chooses to tell you on the pack. If you are concerned about animal welfare and not eating growth hormones, look for a certified free-range brand like Freedom Farms or Harmony Organics. Farmers' markets are good places to look for pork products like sausages and salamis from small free-range operations.

As with most products, when choosing processed pork products in the supermarket we have to use our label-reading skills. The only way to tell if the pork in your bacon or ham has been grown in New Zealand is to read the label. Look for the '100% NZ Pork' symbol on fresh pork, bacon and ham. If a label doesn't tell you it's been grown in New Zealand, some of the pork in it may be from somewhere else."

First published: Jul 2007



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