Sausage-makers Debbie & Andrew's has launched the UK's first fair trade scheme for British pig farmers in a bid to end the crisis in the sector.

The Yorkshire-based company has agreed to pay pigmeat suppliers a 15% premium over the market price and is calling on processors and retailers to follow suit by signing up to its new Meat Standards Charter.

It has already passed the increase along to customers, with the average retail price of £1.90 for a pack of six sausages, rising to £2.20 from January.

Andrew Keeble, joint-owner of Debbie & Andrew's, said the retailers had been supportive of the price-raising initiative. "This 15% is a big increase but we won't see any profit as it will all go down the supply chain to both farmers and - importantly - abattoirs," he told The Grocer. "But what we really need is for the big four supermarkets to sit down and debate on what they can do for our industry."

To justify the rising prices and the higher price of British pork relative to imported product, it was essential for the image of British pork to be improved, Keeble added. "Industry bodies such as BPEX have been doing a fairly good job, but they are still failing to get the message across to consumers that British pigs have the best welfare in the world," he said. "We could learn from the Danish who are better at marketing their products than us. British shoppers perceive Danish as a premium quality name and are largely unaware that we offer better welfare for our pigs."

There have been signs recently that the supermarkets are prepared to pay more for pigmeat. Sainsbury's recently vowed to inject £5m a year into the pork sector by raising the price it pays for British pork, ham, bacon and sausages. And Morrisons also committed to sourcing all its fresh pork from British farmers.