Lucille Keen

Communication breakdown: Saskia Beer said a mix-up with her supplier led to her labelling cheaper white pork as black pork.
Communication breakdown: Saskia Beer said a mix-up with her supplier led to her labelling cheaper white pork as black pork.

Saskia Beer, the daughter of renowned chef Maggie Beer, has been accused of misleading consumers by using white pig meat in her black pig small-goods range.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission claims Ms Beer, the sole director of Barossa Farm Produce, contravened consumer law between 2010 and 2013 for stating on product labels that the pork in the range was from heritage Berkshire pigs, when this was not the case.

Black pig breeds, which include Berkshire pigs, are heritage breeds. Berkshire pork is known for its texture and flavour due to a higher fat to meat ratio than white pig breeds, qualities that make Berkshire pork a premium meat product.

The ACCC received the complaint as a result of "industry intelligence" and it is understood Ms Beer's "The Black Pig" products predominantly contained white pig meat.

The regulator said Ms Beer told a cooking class held at the Maggie Beer Farm Shop in April 2013 that the pork used in the range was from Berkshire or other black pig breeds.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the company has accepted an undertaking to not mislead customers again and will be forced to publish a corrective notice on its website. Ms Beer has also agreed to attend trade practices compliance training.

When asked why the company was not fined, Mr Sims said the exposure of doing the wrong thing was a significant penalty. He said the mislabelling gave Barossa Farm Produce an "unfair advantage" in the market, as consumers were likely to seek out and pay more for products containing specialised gourmet ingredients.

In a statement, Ms Beer said she was responsible and apologised.

"This is an isolated instance that arose as a result of miscommunication on the part of our supplier and a failure on our part to adequately verify, in this instance, the source of the product," Ms Beer said.

"There was no intention to mislead or misrepresent in any way the origin of the product."

A first for gourmet products

Mr Sims said the regulator was "putting more of an emphasis" on product origin issues but said this was probably one of the first actions against a gourmet product.

He said there had been similar cases of misleading labelling by chicken, duck and game producers which concerned claims the animals were free range. The producers were fined for misleading consumers.

He said other "origin" claims included a company that claimed the product was 100 per cent olive oil when it was 93 per cent canola oil and 7 per cent extra virgin olive oil.

The ACCC is in the middle of legal proceedings against supermarket giant Coles over bread it labelled "Baked Today, Sold Today" when it was pre-baked. The Federal Court will hand down its decision on Coles on Wednesday.

South Australian butcher and former MasterChef contestant Richard Gunner said black pig breeds had more flavour and a higher fat content than white pigs.

Mr Gunner, who owns Feast Fine Foods, said Berkshire pork could cost up to 40 per cent more than white pork.

"We've been selling Berkshire pork for eight years and we've seen steady growth in demand for the product, year-on year," Mr Gunner said.

He said the ACCC case highlighted the need for greater certainty around definitions in the industry.

Black pigs are usually reared as free range pigs and unlike the white variety they do not get sunburnt.

The Berkshire breed has a different way of laying down fat than any other breed. It is used more by restaurants than in the general butcher trade.

A spokeswoman from Australian Pork said the products, which included a pink Pork Australia sticker, indicated the pork was grown in Australia but did not indicate the breed.

"Accurate labelling on any pork products is essential for consumer transparency and confidence," the spokeswoman said.