Retailers will be unable to cope with any surge in demand for UK pork following Jamie Oliver’s upcoming TV show.

That’s the stark warning from experts ahead of Jamie Saves Our Bacon, which airs on 29 January. The documentary is expected to highlight the welfare advantages of UK pork products, as well as the tiers of quality standards. However, producers are warning there is not the capacity in the British pig herd to deal with a mass overnight switch.

The UK is expected to produce 670,000 tonnes of pork and bacon for the domestic market this year, according to AHDB Meat Services. Some 805,000 tonnes will be imported.

Ten years ago the UK produced 84% of the pig meat it ate, but today the figure is just 45%. The UK pig herd has decreased 40% over the past decade as farmers quit the industry in disillusionment at unsustainable margins. “It’s a massive problem,” said Andrew Baker, group CEO at Duchy Originals. “There is simply not the supply. Chickens can be raised in weeks, but it takes a lot longer to get pigs onto the market.”

Further problems have emerged over labelling, with pork from other countries allowed to be labelled as British produce if the meat is processed here. Less than half the bacon produced in the UK this year will be from home-killed pigs.

A pack of Tesco bacon labelled ‘Produce of Britain’ was revealed in a new Parliamentary report this week to be made from pork from ‘the UK, Denmark, Holland or Sweden’. The rules allowed retailers to “offer the impression of loyalty to the UK pig industry without adding value to the UK supply chain,” according to the British Meat Processors Association.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee also blamed the Government for trying to push through higher welfare standards ahead of EU rivals, and retailers for failing to back producers when they did so.

Telling facts from porkies
45% – the amount of pork products consumed in the UK that have been produced in this country
18% – the percentage of bacon sold in the UK that comes from UK-reared pigs
40% – reduction in the UK pig herd over the last 10 years