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Where DOES our pork come from?

There was an article last Saturday in the UK’s Mail Online about how UK Supermarkets and food outlets have come together to create a voluntary code on the labeling of pork products in respect of country of origin. (Read it here)

Since Ireland’s Pork Fiasco in December 2008 there have been noises made about exactly where our Pork comes from. There are now Assurance Schemes which help to reassure us that those particular products are Irish, but there is nothing in place to show where pork products NOT bearing these schemes labels come from.

Are we to assume that all products NOT carrying these labels are therefore NOT Irish grown pork?

The pork that we cure and smoke is Irish; what’s more we can trace our pork back to the farm where it was grown, back to Martin O’Donovan in Timoleague for instance, which is much more than most suppliers of bacon or pork can do.

But we aren’t part of Bord Bia’s Quality Assurance Scheme, so don’t assume that if it doesn’t have the Q.A. stamp on it that it’s not Irish.

The need for clear Country of Origin labeling is obvious.

Yesterday, Ummera had a Twitter conversation/debate with Bord Bia over the question of traceability.

Thought you might be interested in it:

ummera: Supermarkets in UK agree to reveal the REAL origins of their pork products;@BordBia @GoodFoodIreland and here?http://ow.ly/1axCh9:56am, Feb 24 from HootSuite

Bordbia: @ummera Food products, especially meat with our Quality Assurance Scheme logo on it is produced in Ireland and fully traceable.10:01am, Feb 24 from TweetDeck

ummera: @Bordbia And Pork? Farm to fork? Not yet by any means.10:39am, Feb 24 from HootSuite

Bordbia: @ummera & Pork. Bord Bia Quality Mark assures consumers with fully traceable & origin Ireland product, processors/farmers all audited.1:36pm, Feb 24 from Web

ummera: @Bordbia Quality Mark excellent, but it is all the rest that aren’t covered. Shouldn’t there be traceability Farm to Fork on ALL products?2:30pm, Feb 24 from HootSuite

Bordbia: @ummera That’s why it’s important to look for the Quality Assurance Mark on products.http://bit.ly/cg01qw2:58pm, Feb 24 from TweetDeck

ummera: @Bordbia Indeed; but do you think that supermarkets, & retail outlets here could agree a voluntary code for all pork products as in the UK?3:31pm, Feb 24 from HootSuite

Bordbia: @ummera Not sure how valid the policing of a “voluntary” scheme is. Bord Bia Quality Assurance marks offers validity with audit process. 4:12pm, Feb 24 from Web

All we really want to know is where our food comes from: what country, and if Irish what farmer and where?

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Traceability & the FSAI

Yesterday Dr. Alan O’Reilly of the FSAI told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture that there were three reasons to justify the withdrawal of all pork products from Ireland’ shelves last month. See report in The Irish Times today.

His third reason was the most worrying: “It was not possible to distinguish between contaminated and uncontaminated products in about 98 per cent of the national pork throughput. Reminding the committee that pork was back on the shelves within a week, he said if all pork had been left on the shelves, it would have been impossible to trace contaminated products.”

So much for the traceability that the FSAI themselves have imposed on us.

98% of pork products are NOT traceable?

Our supplier of bacon for curing is only able to give us full traceability if we get pork killed on a Monday. Any other day, and we will only know that it came from one of maybe 5 to 10 herds. We’ll be getting our bacon from the Monday batch from now on. And we will put the name of the grower on the label.

If the FSAI insist on us implementing all the “controls” for “one step forward one step back”, then let’s make it applicable for ALL steps.

Update: Please see Comment below.

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The Great Irish Pork Recall

All of us who are involved in the farming, processing, curing, smoking, selling and eating pork in its many shapes and forms have been appalled by the events which have unfurled over the last 24 hours or so.

A total recall nationwide, indeed world wide, of Irish Pork products is a shattering blow to all who have enthused about the quality of our meat in Ireland. 

Plenty of detail can be found on the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s website and they have attempted to justify the TOTAL recall of all Irish pork products produced since September 1st. The effects of PCB Dioxins in the food chain are clearly known and any dioxin should be carefully monitored and avoided of course. However it is the extraordinary haste and severity of the FSAI’s action which has stung producers.

Had the FSAI delayed their announcement for a couple of additional days, they could have established just what products were contaminated and the withdrawal of products could have been done in accordance to the traceability procedures which are now compulsory. The additional couple of days “exposure” to these dioxins would not have had any significant effect. Indeed the FSAI website says:

The FSAI reiterates its advice to consumers not to consume any Irish pork or bacon products. However, it stresses that people should not be alarmed or concerned in relation to the potential risks from dioxin’s found in pork products. A short term peak exposure to dioxins and PCBs does not result in adverse health effects. 

The nature of the total recall appears to negate the necessity for the massive amount of work which food producers have to do to comply with to ensure the traceability  principals of “one step forward, one step back” or “from farm to fork”.

One problem is the vanishing of small local slaughterhouses in Ireland (see Ivan McCutcheons outstanding blog on Local Abattoirs: What’s at Steak from mid November). Now with a few slaughterhouses killing pigs and  cattle from many different farms on the same day, traceability back to the individual farm is very difficult. But we know where our smoked chickens are grown, and we state the name of the farmer on the label; we know where the beef in the shops come from as the label says so too; but pigs….. why not pigs?

Ireland has a reputation for having one of the most stringent regimes in the world when it comes to implementing food safety procedures; there are good reasons why this is should be so, but let us have some reality in the implementation a recall that is far too sweeping, too premature and far too damaging to our very very fragile economy.

It is with much regret that we have taken our Smoked Dry Cured Bacon off our website for the moment. We  have contacted all who have purchased our bacon, both shops and individuals, since September 1st in accordance to the requirements of the FSAI.

We hope that we will have our bacon avaiable again in a couple of days; you will have to watch this space! Better still sign up for email updates in the box on the right hand side of this page.

I can recommend you to look at Conor’s Bandon Blog for some great comments! If your a twitter (and better still if you are not) then go to www.twitter.com/ummera for some snippets!

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Terra Madre and Bacon & Eggs

 Seven days ago I had Bacon & Eggs for breakfast in Turin; not, I’m sure, a typical Italian way to start the day, but Gemma, who was amongst the 250 good citizens of Turin who accommodated some of the 7,000 delegates of Terra Madre over the three days from Thursday to Sunday, cooked up some of our Ummera Rashers with two Italian Eggs! An great way to begin the final day of Terra Madre and set me up for the next 36 hours without sleep.

I was going to have the Bacon & Eggs again today back at home, but we have no bacon left!

Between Babbington’s Tea Room on the Spanish Steps, Rome and The Winding Stair Restaurant in Dublin, we are cleaned out – although we have just finished curing and smoking more today so perhaps next Sunday!

Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto were, as in the past, awesome and inspring; I had intended to make a daily post from Turin, but I was so engrossed in all the activities, workshops, tastings that I felt that the time queueing to get Internet access, would be much better used in tasting another cheese, salami, pasta, etc etc…

So bits and pieces from Terra Madre will appear over the next few weeks!

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Ummera – Just in time for Christmas!

The following mail has been sent around the world:

Our weather is so mild for early November, it is hard to imagine a white Christmas! But think of Christmas we must, and I am hoping that this email will focus your attention on ordering some of your Christmas fare good and early! To order right now, go to Orders

The last year for Ummera has been very exciting with an increasing number of Speciality Food outlets in Ireland and in the UK stocking our products. Please Click here for an up-to-date list.

However, the year has been tempered by the total lack of wild salmon. As you will be aware, Ummera has specialised in smoking the Wild Atlantic Salmon since the early 1970’s but we have, in the last couple of years, taken as pro-active a role as possible in trying to ensure that the stocks are not totally decimated.

In 2006 we made a decision not to buy any more wild salmon until we could be assured that they came from a sustainable fishery. In 2007, the Irish government placed a ban on the commercial drift net fishery and we have confidence that this will greatly improve the salmon stocks in our rivers. It may take four or five years before we see a sustainable harvest again.

We have been offered wild salmon from Scotland, Norway and the Pacific but we smoke Irish salmon in Ireland, and we smoke the best available Irish salmon. Currently the Irish Organic Salmon are the best available to us, so we smoke them for you.

We therefore encourage you to enjoy our Smoked Organic Salmon, not just in the interest of conservation but also for its superb quality. Earlier this year, we introduced an Organic Gravadlax, organic salmon marinated in dill, sugar salt, peppers and a splash of whisky – all organic. Traditionally served with a dill and mustard sauce, but sue very sparingly, if at all, as the flavour of the gravadlax is easily overpowered..

There is a world-wide shortage of eel, and it is under even greater threat than the wild Atlantic salmon. The EU has announced drastic measures that come into force next year and it is very unlikely that we will be smoking Silver Eel for some time to come.

Our Hot Smoked Crown of Chicken has been very successful this year and our Smoked Dry Cured Bacon is assured to make you insist on only Ummera Bacon in the future!

Our last dates for orders is December 10th and our last shipping date is expected to be December 17th (USA & Canada: December 10th).

If you have any questions when on our web site, please email us or skype us (acreswell) or even phone us and William or myself will be very happy to help.

Quick Links:
To Order: Orders
Find Stockists: Outlets
Smoked Organic Salmon: Smoked Organic Salmon
Smoked Chicken: Hot Smoked Crown of Chicken
Smoked Dry Cured Bacon: Smoked Dry Cured Bacon
News/Weblog Page: Ummera News
Main Ummera site: ummera.com

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas from us all at Ummera

 

Anthony Creswell