A dramatic increase in imported produce is threatening the future of pig farmers, a report has warned.
The number of pork imports rose by 50 per cent last year, of which two-thirds would have been illegal to produce in this country as it did not meet UK legal welfare standards.
A report by the British Pig Executive ( BPEX) said 793,000 tonnes of imported pork flooded into the UK during 2004, with retail sales rising by nearly 50 per cent and the amount used in bacon production soaring by 72 per cent up against 2002.
The figures have enraged pig farmers and butchers, who fear the British industry will be obliterated by imports.
Pressure from imports has led to a 40 per cent reduction in the British pig herd since 1997, the BPEX said.
Award winning butcher Keith Boxley, of Boxley's of Wombourne in Staffordshire, is urging the consumer to buy British, claiming imports are of inferior quality.
"The supermarkets are doing to the pork industry what they did to the turkey industry, completely ruining it by buying imports. They have no long term vision and just look at things in the short term to make a quick buck," he said.
" The problem is when foreign meat is put on the shelf it is not always obvious to the consumer if it has been imported. If it has been processed or someone has added value to it in the UK they can market it as British."
Mr Boxley, who has won countless awards for his products including The Best Sausage in Britain at the 2003 London Meat Awards, winners in a National Pie Competition in Manchester and a prestigious Gold Award at The Great Taste Awards, said he would only use British pork.
He added: "There is no way we would include foreign pork in our sausages or pies, some of it is adulterated by water and most importantly is the conditions the animals are kept in, how they have been transported and how the meat is dealt with afterwards - it is a disgrace.
"Pig farms are reducing in numbers because it isn't viable for them, they can't compete on price and if we are not careful we won't have any choice but to buy low quality imported pork. So we need people to fly the flag and demand meat from local farms or British farms."
Richard Lowe, marketing director of BPEX, added: "This report makes it clear that pig farmers in this country are being put at a very real disadvantage as some supermarket chains fill their shelves with cheaper imports that would be illegal to produce in the UK. "We are concerned particularly by a practice amongst retailers of selling fresh pork under tertiary brand labels, which enables them to claim that all their own-label fresh pork is produced to UK welfare standards."
The BPEX said the rise in imports contrasted with what consumers wanted.
A recent survey of 1,500 consumers found 92 per cent agreed that imported meat should be produced to UK minimum standards.
In January this year BPEX launched a new Quality Standard Mark for pork, bacon and ham to help consumers identify high welfare produce.
"This is not an anti-import campaign. Imported products can carry the Quality Standard Mark if they meet UK standards," Mr Lowe added.