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Pig mistake no laughing matter

Producers of black pigs see red over ACCC decision

CATHY WALKER June 24, 2014 3:10am

Barham’s Lauren Mathers says bad publicity over Saskia Beer’s pork products has damaged the industry.


The headline writers had fun with jokes about telling porkies and how pig claims don’t fly when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission last week exposed food guru Maggie Beer’s daughter, Saskia, for misleading the public about her Barossa Farm Produce.

The news was less amusing for heritage-breed pork producers, when Ms Beer’s Black Pig smallgoods were found not to be made from Berkshire pork as stated on the labelling.

Barham farmer Lauren Mathers of Bundarra Berkshires said such negative publicity was ‘‘bringing the whole industry down’’.

‘‘Saskia Beer is a name we all sort of trust. People put so much trust in labels. We as an industry lose a bit of trust when this happens and that’s a shame,’’ Mrs Mathers said.

She and husband Lachy sell their farm-raised Berkshire pork from their on-farm butcher’s shop, at farmers’ markets, online and through their local IGA supermarket.

The Mathers have just built a dry-curing room to complement the butchery, and were preparing for a ‘Hog Fest’ last weekend.

Further south at McIvor Farms at Tooboorac, Berkshire farmer Belinda Hagen did not wish to comment on the Beer case.

But in general terms, she said customers were taking the information provided on labelling as honest and truthful, ‘‘particularly if you are direct marketing’’.

‘‘We like to think there is a taste difference; it depends on how processed it is,’’ Mrs Hagen said.

‘‘From a fresh pork point of view, our pigs have black hair in the pork skin.’’

Black pig breeds, which include Berkshire pigs, are heritage breeds. Berkshire pork is known for its texture and flavour due to a higher fat-to-meat ratio than white pig breeds.

In the Saskia Beer judgment the ACCC found:

‘‘Between about December 9, 2010 and May 28, 2013, Barossa Farm Produce made various representations that the pork used in its Black Pig smallgoods was from heritage Berkshire pigs, or other heritage black pig breeds; and/or free range pigs, when that was not the case.’’

A statement made on the websites www.saskiabeer.com and www.barossafarmproduce.com that ‘‘we know the origin of every animal that makes its way onto the plate’’ in relation to the pork smallgoods was also misleading, the ACCC found ‘‘as Barossa Farm Produce did not in fact know the origin of every animal used in those products’’.

‘‘A business must not make claims about the characteristics of its products when it has no reasonable basis for doing so,’’ ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

Mr Sims said Ms Beer’s company had accepted an undertaking to not mislead customers again and would be forced to publish a corrective notice on its website.

In a statement last week Ms Beer apologised and described the use of white pork as a miscommunication on the part of her supplier.

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