NEXT time you bite into a bacon butty or a ham-topped pizza, you could be helping others to flout the law.

That’s the warning from a campaign group that is encouraging people across the county to buy British when it comes to pork.

Jane Drewe, 55, from West Hagbourne, near Didcot, is a member of Ladies in Pigs (LIPS), which educates consumers about the benefits of buying British pork and bacon.

She is urging shoppers to look for the Red Tractor and union flag symbol, which proves the product you buy is home-grown.

Mrs Drewe, whose husband John runs Coscote Farm, said: “It has never been more important for people to identify where meat has come from, which is why we are pushing the Red Tractor scheme. It’s all about being able to trace it from farm to fork.”

LIPS was launched in 1991, with members carrying out pork cooking demonstrations at county shows to promote local produce.

The Red Tractor and union flag symbol guarantees the meat comes from a British farm. Most leading supermarkets and other retailers use the scheme, although Sainsbury’s dropped it last October, claiming it was too confusing for consumers.

New European Union legislation came into force last month, preventing pregnant sows being kept in metal cages, but 17 EU countries have not complied with the ruling, according to the National Pig Association.

This is angering British farmers, who spent thousands of pounds converting their equipment and practices when cages were banned in the UK 14 years ago.

The Lips campaign comes in the wake of the international horsemeat scandal which has thrown a spotlight on meat production across Europe.

Mrs Drewe said: “People are so price driven, and understandably so. If Danish bacon is on a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ offer, they are going to go for that rather than British bacon.”

Labelling is a thorny issue, since the country of origin is not always clear. She says ham can be labelled ‘Wiltshire-cured ham’ if it has been cured in the style of a Wiltshire ham, even though the pig meat may have been imported from Holland.

Similarly, pig meat that is imported from other European countries but processed and packed in the UK, may be labelled ‘Packed in the UK’ giving the impression it is British meat.

“As Britain imports around 60 per cent of its processed pork, it is inevitable that consumers unwittingly support this unacceptable trade in illegally-farmed pigs,” said NPA manager Dr Zoe Davies.

But Dr Davies added that the British public must take a share of the blame too.

“People don’t value food any more,” she said. “They need to understand that it costs to produce food and if they pay virtually nothing, what do they expect?”

  • For more on LIPS, see the website