All pig farmers in Northern Ireland should recently have received a letter from the Ulster Farmers’ Union which outlines the aims of a new NI Pigmeat DNA Certification Programme which has been established in Northern Ireland and what it is setting out to achieve.
The NI Pigmeat DNA Certification Programme is an industry led initiative, supported by Pig Regen and the Ulster Pork and Bacon Forum as well as the UFU, developed in order to provide assurances to consumers on the integrity of locally labelled products and promote the use of more NI pigmeat in our local marketplace.
It will also be particularly useful to verify the authenticity of pork products carrying the now operational Ulster Pork and Bacon Forum label.
As detailed in the letter, the scheme involves building up a databank of DNA of all the boars used in the production of Northern Irish pigmeat, including all on farm boars (and teaser boars). The AI stations have also been written to separately to ensure their participation in this programme. This will allow us to test pig meat, processed or unprocessed, and confirm if it is of Northern Irish origin through matching it back to this boar databank.
Based on this scientific evidence, the UFU will then identify companies who are using imported pig meat which may not meet the animal health and welfare standards of Northern Ireland and expose anyone who is misleading consumers about the origin of their products.
This DNA programme will therefore offer extra assurance to local consumers and retailers about the origin of their pig meat.
The success of the programme relies on the co-operation of all pig farmers, and the UFU would like to encourage all pig farmers in Northern Ireland to fully participate. Not only will it bring direct benefits to local producers, but it is in each individual pig producers interest to ensure that their pigs are included in this Programme otherwise they will not be recognised as Northern Irish because the DNA of their boars will not held on the databank.
It will likely take up to a year before this boar databank is complete to a level of accuracy which will allow testing to begin and pig meat products to be analysed. However, with good co-operation from farmers, this time scale could be significantly reduced.
All information is included within the letters, together with a registration form which should be sent to Countryside Services along with payment as outlined for the number of boars used on the farm. This individual and industry investment will provide an excellent return as we develop a more sustainable local market for genuine, Northern Irish pigmeat.