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16 December 2022

Christmas ham: Where does it come from?

Consumers still in the dark on where their imported pork is from.

For the majority of people who sit down to eat ham on Christmas Day, they will have no idea which country the meat came from – even if they check out the packaging and even though the law around it changed this year.

Manufacturers are listing possible countries a ham could be from, making it impossible for consumers to know.
Manufacturers are listing possible countries a ham could be from, making it impossible for consumers to know.

About 90% of Christmas hams are imported and manufacturers now have to disclose the country where the animal was raised on the packaging, since a law change in February.

However, manufacturers are usually listing any of the countries they import pork from rather than where that specific piece of meat is from.

NZ Pork Chief Executive Brent Kleiss said this year the packaging usually reads along the lines of “made in New Zealand with pork sourced or raised in one of the following countries” – followed by a long list of countries.

He said manufacturers had argued they don’t have an easy way to swap out the packaging as quickly as they may change where they are sourcing pork from: “Today it might be Germany, tomorrow it might be Spain.”

He said the law change had intended to make it easier to tell if you were buying a New Zealand ham. Last Christmas it was common to just see “made from local and imported ingredients” on the packaging, leaving consumers in the dark about whether it was the pork or other ingredients that were from overseas.

“It’s a step in the right direction that there is now more information available to consumers, but we’re still not satisfied people will be able to work out whether they’re making a purchase that lines up with their ethical considerations,” Kleiss said.

“People might be ok with the standard of pork raised in some countries but not other countries. But it doesn’t allow them to make that purchase decision.”

Imported pork comes from farms that don’t have to adhere to the same welfare standards as New Zealand farmers. Kleiss said this meant most hams being eaten this summer would be from countries that still allow gestation crates and castration without pain relief.

“Our argument is to buy ham from countries where animals are raised under good welfare standards, but it’s hard to do that when it just says pork is from one of the following countries.”

To be sure you’re buying a New Zealand ham, there are two stickers to look out for: “100% New Zealand” and “Pigcare. Born & raised in New Zealand”.

For more advice on choosing a Christmas ham, see our 5 tips.

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