Monday, 6 October 2008

Pork Barrel Pork Pies

by Edwin Hesselthwite

As covered today by the BBC, The European Court Of Justice have finally granted the 1,800 square mile region around the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray Protected Geographical Indication status for Melton Mowbray Pork Pies.

According to the BBC a charming local by the name of Matthew O'Callaghan (a pie-campaigner, no less) was proud that their pies would finally be authentic, that no one else could mis-sell Melton Mowbray pies (much as Stella Artois, manufactured in Northampton, is marketed as a French product) and that the little town of Melton Mowbray in the East Midlands would finally see the back of any whiley competitors for it's valuable pie-brand...

I smelt a rat.

I've always been suspicious of this regional branding, because modern capitalism is very good at playing these sorts of systems. By granting a small region a monopoly on a food-brand (who has ever actually heard of or thought about Melton Mowbray?) this can equate to vast sums of money. A sufficiently valuable brand-property such as Champagne, or Feta Cheese can mean that one or a cartel of manufacturer/manufacturers have control of a globally renowned product in perpetuity. With the crawling turnover of European case law, these geographical protected areas are ripe for plucking, what company doesn't want to be able to sue its competitors for brand-impeachment? I thought the time had come to look into one of these stories.

It turns out that Mr O'Callaghan was the chairman of The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association (MMPPA), a "local" lobbying organisation who launched this campaign for PGI status in 1999, and that the MMPPA's massively dominant largest member was Dickinson & Morris Piemakers. After a fire in 1992, Dickinson & Morris were bought out by Samworth Brothers, a food conglomerate with a total staff of 6,000 employees (including factories in Cornwall and Milton Keynes), ownership of the ubiquitous Ginsters brand, and products including ready meals, pre-prepared sandwiches, packaged pasta, cooked meats and desserts.

To put it another way, Britain's most powerful pie maker has found and taken control of a region-specific brand, and upon acquiring a suitable factory has launched a campaign to get a permanent monopoly out of the EU. The aim being to drive their competition (Northern Foods, who own the Pork Farms brand) out of the business. Further, the campaign to get this PGI status has resulted in sympathetic free publicity that allows them to play the potentially lucrative local food/organic produce card. An unhealthy grey British meat pie is transformed into a luxury delicacy at minimal expense. Played for and got. I had no knowledge of this before I started investigating this one, I just had a suspicion that regional-protection stank to high heaven... What I found here was an example of Big Business grabbing an artificial monopoly with the complicit backing of the EU legal system.

Fuck the lawyers... Fuck them right in the eye.

Small, traditional, monopolists getting fat off European Law

1 comment:

Ann O'Dyne said...

Beautiful post dear EH - commendations, lauding, and a salute from me.
Samworthless probably have in-house lawyers and a pox on 'em all.
'a nation of shopkeepers' now owned by a dozen multi-conglomerates and any demonstrators at a G8 G12 G20 G-whatever convention, are swiftly kicked and bashed by the stasi.

The way to make them sorry for this pie swindle is to STOP eating the poor dear PIGS.
Mass-breeding of livestock is the biggest part of all the ecological dramas the world is presently wailing about.

but I will try to go calmly amid the haste and noise, so peace and love to you