Co-op bacon

The Co-op is to tap into growing consumer concern over animal welfare by switching all of its own-label fresh pork sourcing to outdoor-bred pigs by the summer.

The move, described as a first for a UK-wide supermarket, means the percentage of outdoor-bred fresh pork, bacon, sausage, gammon and ham sold by the retailer will rise from about 25% to 100% from July.

The Co-op said the pork – supplied by Tulip – would also be sourced from RSPCA Assured farms, while the commitment covered both standard and premium ranges and would not lead to any price increases. It meant the Co-op now had a supply chain that offered “total traceability from farm to fork in which sows are free from confinement and pigs are able to fully express their natural behaviours”.

It follows a commitment by the retailer last May to switch to 100% British fresh meat, and comes amid mounting pressure by animal welfare groups for the introduction of mandatory method of production labelling.

Heck faced criticism in a Times article last weekend that suggested it was misleading shoppers by indicating all animals in its supply chain grazed outside. The Labelling Matters coalition, which counts Compassion in World Farming, the RSPCA and the Soil Association among its members, is also gearing up to launch a major consumer-facing campaign on the matter.

The Co-op’s commitment was welcomed by Compassion in World Farming for addressing “key issues such as confinement and the need to provide pigs with a stimulating environment.”

“Our customers shop with us because they know we are as passionate as they are about animal welfare, so we’re delighted to be able to bring such a pioneering approach to our pig offering,” said Co-op retail CEO Jo Whitfield.

Read more: Industry and campaigners reach a crossroads over food labelling