Urgent need to promote British pork

A pig auctioneer and valuer has warned of tough times ahead for British pig producers, and advised the industry to urgently promote and brand British meat.

Speaking at an ACMC-sponsored meeting of the Suffolk Pig Discussion group, Peter Crichton said that the industry should make a clearer distinction between foreign pork and British product and its production methods, and should consider employing 'food professionals' with an advertising agency to help achieve this in the eyes of the public.

He pointed out that pork - not just bacon - from Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands and Sweden can now be found on the supermarket shelves with little to differentiate it from locally-produced meat.

Crichton predicted that the UK total breeding herd, currently standing at 423,000 head, will dip below 400,000 sows next year and farmgate prices should increase as a result, but said sales at retail level have dropped, due to the credit crisis, with bacon down 5%, fresh/frozen pork down 6% and pork chops down a massive 16%.

In addition, the Danish pig industry is in crisis following the loss of the Russian trade and Danish pigs will have to find a market in Europe, which could have knock-on effects in Britain.

Crichton added that despite better productivity due to the use of the PCV2 vaccine, production on UK farms is still not good compared with Continental producers, with the top-third indoor and outdoor herds rearing 24.65 and 22.40 pigs per sow annually respectively.

He advised producers to consider actions such as conducting SWOT analyses of their businesses, forward-buying of their feed as an insurance and, for those that were good at breeding, concentrating on this area rather than finishing.