22 Dec 2009

Free-range Christmas ham all in the fine print

3:12 pm on 22 December 2009

Consumer New Zealand is warning shoppers to beware of confusing labels when buying Christmas hams.

Free-range products have been in demand since footage of distressed-looking pigs housed in sow crates aired on a television current affairs show earlier this year.

The chief executive of Consumer New Zealand, Sue Chetwin, says that labels such as "free range" (meaning animals are farmed outside) and "free farmed" (meaning they're housed in big barns) are confusing for consumers.

She says a welfare assurance labelling system due to be introduced by the Pork Industry Board next year will only add to the confusion, as animal welfare laws still allow for the use of sow crates.

Waiting list for farmer's free-range hams

A Waikato free-range pig farmer told Radio New Zealand's Rural News there's so much demand for his Christmas hams that he's got a waiting list and is having to turn people away.

Jonathan Walker says he's putting it down to public outrage sparked by the television footage of pigs in crates.

Investigators from the Ministry of Agriculture found that the piggery in question had not broken animal welfare rules. Recommendations are expected next year on whether the pig industry should continue to use sow crates.

Mr Walker says that while his hams are always sought after, it's been particularly noticeable this year.