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February 23, 2015
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Foot-and-mouth anniversary highlights the risks of feeding swill to pigs
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Pig farming like ‘taking
Friday January 15, 2016
Current low feed prices are doing nothing to reduce pig producers’ losses, reports the National Pig Association. Nearly all are losing another £7 on every slaughter pig they produce as a result of buying wheat and soya forward last year, when it appeared prices had reached their lowest point.
“This is knocking a big hole in our British premium for higher welfare pigs,” said NPA chairman Richard Lister. “It makes sense for pig-keepers to reduce risk by buying some feed forward when prices appear competitive — but it’s like taking a punt at Ladbrokes, and it’s painful when producers get it wrong.”
According to data produced on behalf of pig levy-payers, cost of production, based on spot feed prices, is currently 139p a kilo. This is 12p a kilo above the average price received by producers which has fallen to 127p a kilo, its lowest for eight years.
And now a new survey by NPA among producers representing 23 percent of the English female breeding herd, shows over 90 percent are paying at least 17 percent more for some of their feed ingredients.
As feed represents 65 percent of the cost of production, this puts actual cost of production at 10p a kilo above published figures.
“Retailers and processors need to be aware of this, because we need their support,” said Richard Lister. “If producers put maintenance, investment and even breeding herd replacement on hold, it is possible for some to show they are breaking even in cash terms.
“But it’s not a sustainable position and the only reason we aren’t seeing an exodus from the industry yet is that most producers cannot afford to quit, as the cull sow price has more than halved over the past 12 months.”
In the NPA survey, of the 78 percent of respondents who took cover on soya last year, producers representing over 80 percent of sows are paying £11-£20 a tonne more than current spot prices for soya.
And of the 46 percent of respondents who took cover on wheat, producers representing 80 percent of sows are paying £11-£20 a tonne more than current spot prices for wheat.
Most British pig-keepers will be operating in the red for some or all of this year, as the European pig-cycle reaches its lowest point in more than half a decade, driven by higher output and compounded by Russia’s embargo on European Union pigmeat. British producers are making a loss on every pig they sell, but they are still better placed than their continental counterparts, as British pork attracts a 20p-30p a kilo premium.
Although some of this is attributable to the strength of sterling versus the euro (making imported pigmeat cheaper), a significant part is created by the British pig industry’s higher welfare husbandry, which is valued by retailers and consumers.
Seven supermarkets are classed as ‘NPA hundred-percenters’, as they continue to source 100 percent British fresh pork. These are Aldi, the Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
“We’d like to remind all retailers that British pig producers have a world-wide reputation for their high-welfare,” said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. “For instance, most continental pig producers still confine sows in steel gestation crates, or ‘stalls’, for part of the time, whereas they have been outlawed on British farms for 16 years.
“Producing high-welfare pigs outdoors or on straw carries a significant cost disadvantage and retailers must be mindful not to kill the golden goose. If they do, they will have let down their suppliers and they will have let down their customers who continue to demonstrate they want reasonably priced high-welfare, quality-assured British pork.”
Pig farmers urged to
Monday January 11, 2016
National Pig Association is urging pig producers to start talking to their bankers now, rather than wait until their cashflows are under serious pressure. Farmgate prices for pigs have plunged to their lowest level for eight years with little prospect of much improvement for the rest of the year.
"Some producers may not be aware how much banking culture has changed since they last needed to renegotiate overdraft arrangements, or apply for a term-loan," said NPA vice-chairman Richard Longthorp.
"Local managers have far less freedom and flexibility and consequently putting new arrangements in place can now be a lengthy process, involving policy-makers further up the banking foodchain".
Most pig-keepers will be operating in the red for some or all of this year, as the European pig-cycle reaches its lowest point in more than half a decade, driven by higher output and compounded by Russia's embargo on European Union pigmeat.
According to quarterly data produced by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, British producers currently need 139p a kilo deadweight to cover all costs, including reinvestment.
The current Standard Pig Price, calculated from data supplied by abattoirs, has now fallen to below 122p a kilo, putting serious pressure on cashflows, even when maintenance and reinvestment have been put on hold.
Despite low feed prices, many British producers are making a cash loss on every pig they sell, but they are still better placed than their continental counterparts, as British pork attracts a 20p-30p a kilo premium.
Although some of this is attributable to the strength of sterling versus the euro (making imported pigmeat cheaper), a significant part is created by the British pig industry's higher welfare husbandry, which is valued by retailers and consumers.
Seven supermarkets are classed as "hundred-percenters" by NPA, as they continue to source 100 percent British fresh pork. These are Aldi, the Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
"We'd like to remind all retailers that British pig producers have a world-wide reputation for their high-welfare," said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. "For instance, most continental pig producers still confine sows in steel gestation crates, or 'stalls', for part of the time, whereas they have been outlawed on British farms for 16 years."
NPA chairman Richard Lister said, "Producing high-welfare pigs outdoors or on straw carries a significant cost disadvantage and retailers must be mindful not to kill the golden goose. If they do, they will have let down their suppliers and they will have let down their customers who continue to demonstrate they want reasonably priced high-welfare, quality-assured British pork".
Not much Christmas
Friday December 18, 2015
Most retailers have let their customers down by offering an abysmal selection of British gammons this Christmas. Worst performer in NPA’s GammonWatch survey across 68 towns and cities, is Asda.
“Nobody is calling for all British supermarkets to stock 100 percent British gammons,” said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. “But there are plenty of British pork legs available and we hope the poor performers will be much more supportive in future.
“Indeed, we urge them to redress the balance immediately, by making a special effort to support British producers across all pork categories as we enter the difficult New Year period, when the market is going to be particularly challenging this year.”
Although most retailers have piled their shelves high with imported gammons this Christmas — at a time when many pig farmers are fast sliding into the red — the majority have continued to show strong support for British pork in other categories, particularly fresh pork.
Over the past four weeks, National Pig Association members have surveyed 150 supermarkets in 68 towns and cities, checking gammon displays. Worst performer has been Asda with British product making up only 8 percent of its gammon shelf-facings.
“We know high street competition is intense at present, but surely Asda could at least match the hard discounters and display a reasonable number of British gammons,” said NPA chairman Richard Lister, a pig producer in North Yorkshire.
“We recognise there is a glut of pork in the European Union at present, and the strength of sterling makes it available over here at an attractive price. But if retailers want the convenience of a thriving British pig sector on their doorstep, producing reliable supplies 52 weeks of the year of a quality-assured, traceable, high-welfare product, then it's essential they make a special effort to support British pig farmers, particularly at present when an increasing number are selling pigs at a loss.”
On a much more positive note, NPA’s supermarket surveyors found exemplary support for British gammons by Waitrose, M&S and the Co-op… all selling 100 percent British gammons, and at competitive prices too.
Tesco achieved 29 percent by virtue of some stores having a much better display of British gammons than others (perhaps Tesco is particularly proficient at matching its offer to the demographics of each area).
In NPA’s ‘Hundred Percenters Club’ — these are the retailers who source 100 percent fresh British pork — Morrisons was a disappointing 14 percent British shelf-facings on gammons, and Sainsbury’s a not-much-better 19 percent, but NPA acknowledges their support in other pork categories.
Shortly before NPA members started conducting their GammonWatch surveys the industry’s professional PorkWatch surveyors had noted 39 percent British gammon facings in Aldi and 17 percent in Lidl. Both Aldi and Lidl are currently in NPA’s ‘Hundred Percenters Club’ for fresh British pork.
Lidl improved its display of British to 66 percent during December and Aldi introduced its Christmas offer of one imported line and one premium British line, but in some stores the imported product was given more than one shelf-facing.
“We’d like to remind retailers that British pig producers have a world-wide reputation for their high-welfare husbandry,” said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. “For instance, most continental pig producers still confine sows in steel gestation crates, or ‘stalls’, for part of the time, whereas they have been outlawed on British farms for 16 years.
“And in contrast to the continental pig industry, most British pig farmers favour extensive production systems, where pigs are kept outdoors or in deep-strawed barns.”
NPA vice-chairman Richard Longthorp said, “Producing high-welfare pigs outdoors or on straw carrries a significant cost disadvantage and retailers must be mindful not to kill the golden goose. If they do, they will have let down their suppliers and they will have let down their customers who continue to demonstrate they want reasonably priced high-welfare, quality-assured British pork”.
A year ago the industry’s Standard Pig Price stood at 145p a kilo and today it is down to below 126p, and still falling. Taking all costs into consideration, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board sees current break-even price for producers at 139p.
PED becomes ‘lightweight’
December 14, 2015
From Friday, December 18, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea becomes a notifiable disease in England, and pig-keepers and vets will be legally required to inform the Animal and Plant Health Agency of any suspicion of the disease. The measure has been introduced by Government at the request of pig industry bodies, including the National Pig Association.
If a test for PED proves positive, Government action will be limited to informing industry, so that tracings can be carried out and improved biosecurity measures put in place. This is similar to the consensual Canadian approach to combatting the disease, which has proved effective.
PED remains a significant threat to British pig-keepers. Outbreaks of high-impact strains caused up to 100 percent mortality in young pigs in the United States, knocking out around 10 percent of pig production in 2013-2014, and the disease has since spread to Ukraine.
Even with milder European Union strains, piglet mortality as high as 70 percent has been reported.
NPA is calling the new measure “lightweight” notifiable because unlike with other notifiable diseases there will be no statutory movement controls, no compulsory slaughter and no blocks on exports.
Under the new legislation in England, Apha will be legally permitted to inform AHDB Pork — which is the agreed “appropriate organisation” — in confidence of suspect and confirmed cases. AHDB Pork will then provide biosecurity guidance to the pig unit concerned. It will also carry out tracings and alert at-risk contacts as necessary.
The aim will be to prevent spread of PED and to eliminate the disease from the pig unit. There will be no requirement to slaughter affected animals.
PED has been made lightweight notifiable following an informal consultation process with the pig industry. NPA and others called for the measure so that any outbreak can be identified as quickly as possible, spread can be prevented, and the disease can then be eliminated from the unit concerned.
“The industry’s method of tackling the disease and ensuring it doesn't spread will be to introduce a raft of biosecurity measures,” said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. “It worked in Canada and we are confident it will work here — as long as it is identified at the earliest possible stage.”
PED, which is harmless to humans, is a coronavirus that infects the cells lining the small intestine of a pig, causing severe diarrhoea and dehydration. The disease is most serious in new-born suckling piglets where it can cause high levels of mortality. In older pigs, it often leads to loss of production.
The main source of PED is infected faeces. As all commercial pig producers are aware, it can be spread by pigs, people, vehicles, equipment, contaminated bedding, feed and waste, and animal vectors, including rodents, birds, foxes, flies, pets and other farm livestock.
The tiniest amount of infected pig faeces — a thimbleful is often quoted — can be a source of infection for other pigs. Spread can only be controlled by introducing scrupulous biosecurity measures.
Diarrhoea spreads rapidly in a group of pigs over a few days. The disease can affect any age of pig but typically causes 30-100 percent mortality in young piglets. The diarrhoea tends to be watery. Diarrhoea in older pigs is transient and they recover. Sometimes pigs also show reduced appetite and lethargy and may vomit.
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on making PED similarly lightweight notifiable in Scotland.
Ethical dining trend opens
December 14, 2015
New research shows “ethical dining” is becoming increasingly important to consumers when eating-out at restaurants.
This opens up huge opportunities for Britain's pig farmers, and is particularly important at the moment when many are making a loss as a result of steadily falling prices, says National Pig Association chairman Richard Lister, who farms in North Yorkshire.
“British pig producers have a world-wide reputation for their high-welfare husbandry,” he says. “For instance, most continental pig producers still confine sows in steel gestation crates, or ‘stalls’, for part of the time, whereas they have been outlawed on British farms for 16 years.
“And in contrast to the continental pig industry, most British pig farmers favour extensive production systems, where pigs are kept outdoors or in deep-strawed barns.”
Many people, when eating meat out of the home, are now concerned about:
According to research commissioned by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board on behalf of NPA, over over half of diners — 57 percent — now think animal welfare is important when eating out.
Fifty percent are more likely to buy a dish if the provenance of the meat is shown. And 43 percent think it is important to buy locally-sourced ingredients because they have a lower carbon footprint.
In the light of these new findings, NPA will be contacting foodservice companies to explain why it is important to offer consumers British pork and pork products.
It will explain that in addition to offering farm assurance and traceability, the English pig industry is unique in having introduced “Real Welfare” audits by specially-trained vets who assess the welfare of the pigs by checking and recording scientifically selected “well-being indicators”, to help farmers continually improve the welfare of their pigs.
The potential to sell more British pork to the nation's eaters-out is enormous. According to the survey:
According to the survey, price is still important when eating out, but most important is quality, with 73 percent of diners highlighting ‘tasty food’ as their reason for choosing a particular dish.
The online survey by OnePoll took place October 23-25 with a sample of 2,000.
Diners no longer put their brains
November 30, 2015
Increasingly diners are no longer putting their brains into neutral when eating out, says the National Pig Association.
Conventionally, diners are less concerned about where their food comes from in restaurants, than they are when doing their weekly shop in supermarkets.
But new research shows over half of consumers are now concerned about the provenance of meat when eating out and over 65 percent want restaurants to stock high levels of British meat, to maintain confidence.
The research shows restaurants, pubs and fast-food outlets can now attract significantly more customers by stating on their menus where their meat comes from.
“Traditionally foodservice hasn’t been a great supporter of British pig farmers,” said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. “Many outlets preferred to buy imported product at the lowest possible price, rather than consider quality issues such as food miles, animal welfare and traceability.
“But now the world’s most successful restaurant chain, McDonald’s, is demonstrating it makes good business sense to source British pork, because that’s what customers want, particularly since Horsegate.”
This shows a marked change in consumer attitudes to dining out, as earlier research by the Oxford Partnership in conjunction with AHDB Beef and Lamb found provenance was not a “must-have” for consumers when eating meat out of the home.
“We welcome the change in attitude, which has been spearheaded by a few highly-respected big players in foodservice, such as McDonald’s,” said Zoe Davies. “It’s good news for Britain’s high-welfare pig farmers who, unlike their continental competitors, can offer a choice of indoor or free-range pork, and all stages in between.”
The online survey by OnePoll took place October 23-25 with a sample of 2,000.
NPA applauds government
November 30, 2015
A newly-published report on free-farrowing systems by Government’s Farm Animal Welfare Committee has been commended by the National Pig Association for containing sound commonsense. “It could prove a useful roadmap for the nation’s pig farmers as they strive continually to improve the internationally-recognised high-welfare credentials of the British pig industry,” says NPA.
In particular NPA welcomes the report’s recognition of attempts already being made by pig farmers to develop and trial workable free-farrowing systems. And it applauds the committee’s conclusion that future developments must be science-led and must be commercially viable.
The Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) says it favours a move in the pig industry towards well-designed free-farrowing systems “but their commercial development is not yet sufficiently advanced to recommend compulsory replacement of farrowing crates”.
There are practical, financial and welfare challenges involved in adopting free-farrowing systems, so retailers and consumers will have to demonstrate their willingness to pay a premium for pork from early adopters of such systems, according to the report, “Opinion on Free Farrowing Systems”.
And when retailers and labelling schemes set standards for free-farrowing systems, they should be “soundly based, established in consultation with farmers, and stable for long enough that farmers can recoup investments”, it adds.
NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said, “Farrowing crates are used on about half of Britain’s pig farms, to protect piglets and stock-people from injury, and we agree with the European Food Safety Authority recommendation that free-farrowing systems should only be implemented if piglet mortality is no greater than the mean level in confined systems.
“We are in agreement with the Farm Animal Welfare Committee and European Food Safety Authority that accurate data is essential in order to make robust comparisons between confined and non-confined systems. And we are pleased the Farm Animal Welfare Committee places such importance on commercial viability.
“We are also pleased it warns against any future unilateral legislation in Britain. If and when we reach the stage where free-farrowing systems are proven to perform as well as farrowing crates, then any legislation must be at European Union level, and there must be a phase-in period that is agreed with the European pig industry.”Farrowing crates are used almost universally in most pig-producing countries, to confine sows from a week before farrowing until weaning, to prevent piglets being crushed, and to protect farrowing-house maternity staff. The FAWC report outlines a number of attempts to develop commercially-viable free farrowing systems, such as open-pen systems, where sows can be restrained during farrowing
Press Release No. 2
Retailers that support Britain's high-welfare pig farmers by offering a good choice of British gammon this Christmas will be publicly commended by pig farmers — but those that have put in a bulk Christmas order from countries with lower animal welfare standards, or that offer misleadingly labelled gammons, will be named and shamed.
National Pig Association's Christmas GammonWatch campaign was launched this week and NPA members have already started conducting surveys in supermarkets across the country. Their findings will be reported in weekly bulletins from now to Christmas.
"In addition to carrying out our own checks, we are asking shoppers to check gammon labels carefully this Christmas to ensure the product they buy is made from cured British leg of pork, and not from imported pork that has only been cured in Britain," said National Pig Association chairman Richard Lister.
"If our prices fall any further we will see some pig farmers freezing all investment in new buildings next year and others quitting altogether, and either route will be a serious blow to an industry that is known the world over for its high-welfare, high-quality product."
NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said, "We know from successive surveys that customers prefer to buy British pork and pork products even if it costs a penny or two more for the extra quality we offer. This is especially true since Horsegate in 2013 when most retailers sought to reassure customers by promising to stock more British meat."
Typically only 30 percent of gammons for the festive market are British, despite there being a plentiful supply from domestic producers. NPA is determined this must change, particularly when many producers are sliding into the red.
In addition to member surveys, NPA's Christmas GammonWatch campaign will include a special PorkWatch survey in December. Porkwatch is the industry's professionally researched and compiled bi-monthly survey of British pork, bacon, ham and sausage facings in supermarkets, and next month it will be extended to include gammon
Shoppers urged — check your
Christmas gammon really IS British
Shoppers are being urged to check their gammon really is British this Christmas — and to beware of misleadingly labelled product, from countries with lower animal welfare standards.
In a bid to halt tumbling farm-gate prices, struggling British pig farmers have launched Christmas GammonWatch — a new campaign to name and shame retailers that fail to provide customers with a choice of genuine British high-welfare, farm-assured gammon.
In previous years many retailers, and restaurants, have relied on cheap imported pork, which has been cured in Britain and has then been legally, but misleadingly, labelled as “Produced in the United Kingdom”.
Typically only 30 percent of gammons for the festive market are British, despite there being a plentiful supply from domestic producers. The National Pig Association is determined this must change, particularly when many producers are sliding into the red.
"If retailers want the convenience of a thriving British pig sector on their doorstep, producing reliable supplies 52 weeks of the year of a quality-assured, traceable, high-welfare product, then it's essential they make a special effort to support British pig farmers over the Christmas period,” said NPA chairman Richard Lister.
A year ago the industry’s Standard Pig Price stood at 151p a kilo and today it is down to below 127p, and still falling. Taking all costs into consideration, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board sees current break-even price for producers at around 139p.
The main problem for British producers is the strength of sterling against the euro, which is making cheap imports from the continent more than usually attractive to retailers and foodservice.
Extra-miler Jimmy Butler wins
Winner of this year’s British pig industry Chris Brant Award is Jimmy Butler, a larger-than-life pig producer in East Anglia.
“He is exactly what the award is all about,” said chairman of judges Richard Longthorp, vice-chairman of NPA. “Jimmy Butler is always ready to go the extra mile for the industry and has served it with good humour and distinction for many years.”
With his wife Pauline and two sons Stuart and Alastair, Jimmy Butler runs a 2,000-sow pig herd, at St Margaret's Farm, Mells, Halesworth, Suffolk, producing high-welfare free-range pork for the family’s successful Blythburgh Free Range Pork brand, which is an outstanding advert for the British pig industry.
In 1998 he was a driving force behind the British Pig Industry Support Group in East Anglia and in 2011 he suggested pig farmers use their roadside fields to advertise British pork, an idea that was picked up by NPA and led to the industry’s successful “Banners Blitz” campaign which saw over a thousand banners promoting British pork appearing next to busy main roads and motorways across the country.
Jimmy has never been backward in coming forward to help the industry, whether that be serving on NPA Producer Group, working with Ladies in Pigs to help educate school children about British farming, putting the industry’s point of view in the media, or in 2008, memorably singing on the industry single, ‘Stand By Your Ham’.
He was active in East Anglia pig producers’ successful fight to prevent a straw-burning plant being built at Mendlesham in Suffolk, putting his hand in his pocket to support the campaign financially, and persuading other producers to do the same.
A former Young Farmers county president, former local rugby club president and former Conservative Association chairman, Jimmy Butler is a firm believer that if you get a lot out of something in life, you should put something back.
The Chris Brant Award is presented annually to someone who goes the extra mile for the British pig industry. The award is named after well-known producer and pig industry activist Chris Brant, who died in July 2009.
Faced with plunging prices, British pig producers are finding good news thin on the ground at present, so the news this week that discounter Lidl has at last joined the National Pig Association's 'hundred percenters club' has proved a welcome boost to morale.
The hundred-percenters are retailers who respond to customer preference by selling 100 percent British fresh pork, rather than topping up with cheaper imported product.
According to the latest Porkwatch survey, which measures British shelf facings, Lidl has now achieved the 100 percent target and joins the exalted ranks of Aldi, Budgens, Co-op, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
'We're delighted with this news and hope Lidl will demonstrate over the months ahead that it isn't a flash in the pan,' said NPA chairman Richard Lister, a North Yorkshire pig producer.
Many British pig producers are now barely breaking even and some are running at a loss, as a result of falling prices throughout the year, culminating in particularly sharp drops over the past few weeks.
A year ago the Standard Pig Price, as calculated by AHDB from abattoir returns, stood at 151p and today it is down to below 128p. AHDB calculates that taking all costs into consideration, current break-even price for producers is 139p.
'We're carrying on with our Keep It Up campaign, which commends those retailers who have stood by their post-Horsegate pledges to source more British pork,' said NPA chief executive Dr. Zoe Davies.
'If retailers and foodservice want the convenience of a thriving British pig sector on their doorstep, producing reliable supplies of a quality-assured, traceable, high-welfare product, then it's essential they make a special effort to source British pork, sausages, bacon and ham over the difficult months ahead.'
Prices are falling as a result of continental over-supply — caused by a Russian embargo on European Union pigmeat — and the continuing strength of sterling against the euro, which makes imports temptingly cheap.
In summary, September Porkwatch results show the number of British shelf-facings is broadly holding its own, but fresh pork is down 1 percent compared to a year ago at 82 percent, and bacon is down 4 percent.
Waitrose and M&S remain exemplary champions of British pork, bacon, ham and sausages, whilst Sainsbury's is up on ham and sausages compared to July Porkwatch, and Budgens is up on bacon, ham and sausages.
But Asda is down in all four categories compared to July Porkwatch, although up on pork and bacon compared to a year ago, and Tesco is down significantly on pork and bacon compared to a year ago but is doing convincingly better on ham and sausages.
NPA calls on celebs to boycott
Britain’s National Pig Association has added its voice to the chorus of criticism of a Chinese firm’s plans to produce gene-edited micro-pigs and sell them for around £1,000. “We question the ethics of genetically modifying animals just to create a fashion accessory,” says the association’s senior adviser, Dr Georgina Crayford.
NPA is urging showbiz personalities in Britain to set an example of good animal welfare by boycotting the market in micro-pigs, regardless of whether these so-called “tea-cup” pigs have been created by genetic engineering or selective breeding.
“The current trend for keeping micro-pigs as fashion accessories could be perpetuating serious animal welfare problems,” said Dr Crayford. “Some miniature pig lines were originally developed for medical research and can carry genetic mutations responsible for deformities linked to animal dwarfism, such as deformed skulls and weak limbs.”
Other lines of micro-pig have been developed by successively breeding from litter runts, which can lead to expensive vet bills caused by genetic weaknesses and susceptibilities, including walking difficulties and obesity.
Continued breeding of micro-pigs may compromise animal welfare and should not be encouraged, says NPA. Pigs generally do not make good house pets be cause they are programmed to root and chew, so they can be destructive if kept in a house or smart town garden.
A further problem for dilettante pig-keepers is ensure the animals are fed properly, says NPA chairman Richard Lister, a North Yorkshire professional pig producer. “Because of the risk of spreading disease, it is illegal to feed pigs raw or cooked catering waste, and that includes all waste from household kitchens — and the penalty is a fine or prison sentence of up to two years.”
Micro-pigs pose a risk to the nation’s food supply, as they can catch and spread diseases such as foot-and-mouth but they are harder to trace as some owners are not be aware of the legal requirement to register them.
Another risk for unsuspecting buyers is they may be sold what appears to be a micro-pig but is in fact just a small pig which in time will grow to 150-200 kilos.
Dr George studies the science of yumminess
Flamed-haired Dr Georgina Crayford is a scientist by profession… but her passion is good food, and she’s just launched a Facebook page to share her obsession with other foodies.
In her professional life she studies international research papers, briefs politicians and civil servants, and helps farmers improve the health and welfare of Britain’s farm animals.
But away from the office she sheds her academic gravitas, lets down her hair, and immerses herself in an epicurean world where disciples of good taste debate the best ways to make crackling more crackly and artisan bacon more moreish.
She’s grateful to her employers, the National Pig Association, for allowing her the freedom to pursue her hobby, “even though it does sometime encroach on my working day”.
“George”, whose academic specialism is bioveterinary science and who is an expert in global surveillance of foodborne bacteria, hopes those who share her love for great food will contribute their most amazing pork recipes to her Great British Pork Facebook page at https://goo.gl/I0YtcG.
“Lots of people have their own ideas about how to make the best bacon sandwich, the dreamiest pork curry and the quickest, easiest and tastiest ways of using pork mince, and I’d like to share them with everyone,” she said.
“Despite what some of my colleagues may claim, it’s not about gluttony—although maybe that comes into it a bit as far as I’m concerned. It’s about enjoying the pleasures of preparing and eating really good food that’s been cooked and presented imaginitively. And that’s something we all enjoy.”
Strategic marketing is the way forward, say English pig producers
The English pig industry has sent an unequivocal message to Government — keep out of decisions about how the pig levy is spent.
Almost unanimously producers want more of their 85p-per-pig levy to be spent on marketing, to encourage younger consumers to understand and embrace modern ways of cooking and serving pork.
In a poll on the National Pig Association website, over 90 percent of members who took part agreed the sector's recent Pulled Pork campaign was a good pig levy investment. And over 90 percent said Defra should not dictate whether future AHDB Pork marketing campaigns get the go-ahead or not. In the poll…
Levy-payer concern about Defra interference in marketing matters was highlighted this week when AHDB Beef and Lamb chairman Stuart Roberts resigned amid fears AHDB levies will be 'lost to the realms of a remote tax that the industry will have little or no influence over'.
NPA chairman Richard Lister, a Yorkshire pig, sheep and arable farmer, said, 'As diets change in our sophisticated marketplace, intelligent and informative marketing to explain the benefits of red meat is absolutely essential if British producers are to grow or even just maintain the domestic customer base. If AHDB cannot achieve this on behalf of levy-payers because of Government interference, then it is hard to see what its role will be going forwards.'
Independent research shows phase one of the six-week Pulled Pork campaign in May-June created a 19.2 percent uplift in volume sales of fresh pork shoulder. Phase two of the campaign will run in January-February next year, when one of the goals will be to continue rejuvenating pork's image with younger consumers. Currently £3.8m of the pig levy is spent on AHDB Pork marketing activity, about 40 percent of the sector board's total annual spend.
New labelling rules prompt more restaurants to think British
European Union mandatory origin labelling rules for fresh and frozen meat, which came into force in April, have sparked a wave of interest among foodservice companies in sourcing pork from British farms, according to the National Pig Association.
"We are seeing a surge in enquiries from restaurants, pubs, hotels, and even fast-food caterers, and we hope to be able to announce in due course that some have decided to go the McDonald's route and source all-British pork and pork products," said chief executive Dr Zoe Davies.
"Some are interested in sourcing premium free-range pork and some want competitively-priced British commercial pork, but the common factor is an interest in being able to guarantee British provenance."
NPA says its conversations with foodservice companies indicate many have been surprised to find the pork they have been selling over the years has been imported from the continent. This has led them also to question the provenance of the ham, bacon and sausages they serve, even though these are not yet covered by mandatory origin labelling.
The new European labelling rule requires all packaging, including wholesale pork destined for foodservice outlets, to state the country or countries where the animals were reared and slaughtered. And it requires the origin statement to be backed by a paper trail back to the farm of origin, so the origin claim can be checked by regulators.
Whilst helping foodservice companies source pork and pork products to suit their individual price points, NPA is stressing the importance of mentioning British provenance on wall and table menus.
“If you sell British pork then it makes good business sense to advertise the fact,” said NPA chairman Richard Lister, a pig producer in North Yorkshire. “We know it pays dividends because a recent YouGov survey shows that when it comes to customer trust, foodservice outlets have a long way to go before they catch up with retailers.
“British pig farmers have a reputation for exemplary animal welfare, and the eating quality of our product is superior too because unlike the continental europig industry which produces large quantities of carbon-copy pork, British pig farmers satisfy consumer desire for different production systems, such as outdoor free-range, outdoor-bred, and outdoor-reared pork.”
Nearly 70 percent (68%) of shoppers trust the meat they buy in supermarkets either a lot or a fair amount. This compares with only 58 percent trusting the meat they are served in restaurants and 17 percent in fast-food outlets. (YouGov, April 2015.) The survey also found 81 percent of shoppers who buy meat want supermarkets to continue stocking a high level of British meat to maintain consumer confidence, 65 percent believe importing more European pork not produced under food assurance schemes like Red Tractor could increase risk of another Horsegate-style scandal, and only 19 percent want more cheaper European pork imports to keep down prices.
'Hundred percenters club' resists lure of tumbling euro
Despite the euro reaching new lows against sterling in recent months, making imported meat as cheap as chips, there have been no deserters from the English pig industry's 'Hundred Percenters Club', according to the latest Porkwatch survey.
These are the retailers who respond to customer preference by sourcing all their fresh pork from British pig farms... Aldi, Budgens, Co-op, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
Further good news in the latest Porkwatch survey is that Asda has stuck to its promise to increase its percentage of British pork, stepping up its displays of British from a dismal 58 percent in March to a more respectable 61 percent in the May survey.
But the low value of the euro means home-produced pork is currently over 30p a kilo more than Dutch or Danish pork and the temptation to source less British product is proving too great for a few retailers. For instance, at 65 percent, Tesco is 8 percent down compared to the same time last year.
In summary, the latest Porkwatch results are impressive given the pork price differential between Britain and the continent, but there is some slippage in the bacon, ham and sausage categories, and NPA will be discussing this with the retailers concerned.
It is particularly important for pig farmers that supermarkets continue to support home-produced pork at present, as prices are depressed all over Europe. Some British producers are currently operating at a loss and many more are barely breaking even, despite low feed prices.
The current depression in pig prices is a result of plentiful global supplies of pork, loss of the European Union's export market to Russia, and continuing depressed consumer demand on the continent as a result of economic uncertainty.
One considerable advantage for the British pig industry since April has been the introduction of European Union mandatory country of origin labelling on fresh and frozen pork, which at last makes it possible for shoppers to quickly and accurately identify British product.
• Porkwatch surveys are conducted every other month by professional researchers commissioned on behalf of pig and processor levy-payers.
• In its current 'Keep-It-Up' campaign, NPA argues that retailer sourcing policies highlight the taste, tenderness, welfare and whole-chain assurance qualities of British pork, all of which explain its premium position on supermarket shelves.
• Recent YouGov research found 81 percent of shoppers who buy meat want supermarkets to continue stocking a high level of British meat to maintain consumer confidence, 65 percent believe importing more European pork not produced under food assurance schemes like Red Tractor could increase risk of another Horsegate style scandal, and only 19 percent said they wanted more cheaper European pork imports to keep down prices.
Sainsbury's proves foodservice customers want British meat
NPA awards its first Fellowship
The National Pig Association has awarded its first Lifetime Fellowship, in recognition of exceptional service to the British pig industry.
The association's Board and Producer Group have unanimously voted to bestow the Fellowship on North Lincolnshire producer John Godfrey CBE, who together with the late Sir Ben Gill, was responsible for bringing together the NFU pig committee and the commercial arm of the British Pig Association to form the National Pig Association in 1999.
"Pig producers had been calling for a single voice for the country's commercial pig sector for many years but it took two exceptionally talented men, both respected and trusted by farmers, to overcome the obstacles and make it happen," said North Yorkshire producer Richard Lister, chairman of NPA.
East Yorkshire producer Phil Stephenson, chairman of NPA Producer Group, said, "I am delighted we are recognising John Godfrey in this way. NPA has proved itself to be an exceptional trade association which consistently punches above its weight — and without John's wisdom and foresight, none of it would have happened."
Hugh Crabtree, chairman of NPA Allied Industry Group, said, "I was involved alongside John at the foundation of the NPA and his clear vision was to retain and develop the allied industry members of the BPA which I was chairing at the time. He knew it was vital to have an organisation that represented the whole sector. That's what makes us different and more relevant, and provides producers with specialist knowledge across many disciplines. Wise man that John Godfrey!"
Dr Zoe Davies, chief executive of NPA, said, "John Godfrey is a giant figure in the British pig industry and has been a great support to me personally over the years. Many of us rely on him for his knowledge of pig production economics and his wisdom in helping us plot a way forward in a cyclical and sometimes volatile sector that doesn't benefit from a subsidised safety net."
The National Pig Association is the representative trade association for British commercial pig producers. It is allied to the NFU and represents the pig interests of NFU members. John Godfrey was its first chairman and the family link remains today with his nephew Sam Godfrey being recently elected as vice-chairman of NPA Producer Group, which drives association policy-making.
John Godfrey, who was awarded the CBE in 1998 for services to the British pig industry, is a former chairman of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
He was High Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 2010-11. He is a former president of Lincolnshire Agricultural Society and is its current treasurer. He is a former chairman of the board of governors of Lincoln University and was awarded a doctorate by the university in 2009. He is the founding chairman of Assured British Pigs, which is now part of Assured Food Standards.
John Godfrey is a director of R. J. and A. E. Godfrey, which has farming enterprises extending from Holbeach in the south of Lincolnshire, to Brigg in the north, and produces potatoes, peas, wheat, sugar beet and oilseed rape. He is also a director of Elsham Linc Ltd, which has its own feed mill near Elsham and is a large-scale pig producer.
Don't perpetuate this trade in fashion-accessory micro-pigs, urges NPA
Britain's leading professional pig specialists are urging the public not to support the current trend for keeping micro-pigs as fashion accessories—because they could unwittingly be perpetuating serious animal welfare problems.
Some miniature pig lines were originally developed for medical research and can carry genetic mutations responsible for deformities linked to animal dwarfism, such as deformed skulls and weak limbs, warns the National Pig Association.
Other lines of micro-pig have been developed by successively breeding from litter runts, which can lead to expensive vet bills caused by genetic weaknesses and susceptibilities, including walking difficulties and obesity.
Continued breeding of micro-pigs may compromise animal welfare and should not be encouraged, says NPA. Pigs generally do not make good house pets because they are programmed to root and chew, so they can be destructive if kept in a house or smart town garden.
NPA warns the pigs also pose a risk to the nation's commercial pig herd as micro-pigs can catch and spread diseases such as foot and mouth but in many cases may be harder to trace as some owners may not be aware of the legal requirement to register them.
A further risk for unsuspecting buyers is they may be sold what appears to be a micro-pig but is in fact just a small pig which in time will grow to 150-200 kilos.
Supermarkets shun cheap
Despite cheaper imported supplies being available, supermarkets have stepped up their support for British pork, according to the latest Porkwatch survey.
"This is a remarkable testament to the quality of the domestic product at a time when the gap between British farm-gate prices and the average European Union price is 26p a kilo, and the differential with Danish pork is over 35p a kilo," says National Pig Association chairman Richard Lister, who farms in North Yorkshire.
Retailers have increased the proportion of British bacon versus imported on their shelves from 44 percent to 46 percent, and they have maintained British sausages at 83 percent, British fresh pork at 83 percent, and British ham at 64 percent.
The only disappointing performer is ASDA which shows a fall in every category—down from 59 percent to 58 percent British fresh pork, from 19 percent to 18 percent on bacon, from 31 percent to 28 percent on ham and from 76 percent to 73 percent on sausages.
"We recognise some retailers have an extremely cost-conscious customer base," said NPA chief executive Dr. Zoe Davies. "Nevertheless there is plenty of evidence to show the best way to grow the pork category is to major on British, so we will be urging ASDA to review its sourcing policies."
Tesco has maintained its proportion of British pork versus imported at 66 percent and British sausages at 80 percent. It has increased its British bacon from 44 percent to 45 percent, but is down from 58 percent to 57 percent on British ham.
NPA's British fresh pork one-hundred-percenters are Budgens, the Co-operative, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and the hard discounter Aldi—and Lidl looks like joining the club soon, having increased its British fresh pork from 89 percent to 92 percent.
In recent months British pig farmers have applauded supermarkets for sticking to their 2013 Horsegate pledges to restore customer trust by sourcing more British pork and pork products.
They have continued supporting the domestic product despite the provocation of a glut of cheap pork in continental cold stores and falls in the value of the euro, which together have created a significant temporary price differential.
In its current Keep-It-Up! campaign, NPA points out that retailer sourcing policies highlight the taste, tenderness, welfare and whole-chain assurance qualities of British pork, all of which explain its premium position on supermarket shelves.
Restaurants can win
Wednesday April 14, 2015
A policy of sourcing more British meat and promoting the fact on-pack to customers means supermarkets are stealing a lead on restaurants and fast-food chains when it comes to gaining public trust, according to a new data.
Nearly 70 percent of shoppers trust the meat they buy in supermarkets either a lot or a fair amount. This compares with only 58 percent trusting the meat they are served in restaurants and 17 percent in fast-food outlets.
"If foodservice companies want the public to trust them to a similar degree, the answer is staring them in the face. They should copy the retailers and serve British meat instead of imported meat from continental cold stores," says National Pig Association chairman Richard Lister.
According to NPA, many foodservice outlets already have a British-only rule for the fresh pork they serve, but fail to inform customers. "That's crazy," said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. "All the evidence shows customers want British meat because they trust its provenance and its quality, and they are even prepared to pay a bit more for it, just as they do in supermarkets.
"So when restaurants and fast-food outlets make a point of sourcing British, they should always say so on their menus and in their advertising, and if they do, this new research shows their customers will respond positively."
• Since Horsegate in 2013, supermarkets have worked to restore trust by sourcing more British meat and labelling the fact clearly. The new YouGov research data on consumer trust, released this month by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, demonstrates the strategy is working.
• NPA has commended British pork hundred-percenters—Aldi, Budgens, the Co-op, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, and Waitrose (Porkwatch survey, January 2015)—and is urging foodservice companies to do likewise.
Shoppers praise supermarkets
Tuesday March 3, 2015
A new survey has found the majority of shoppers want supermarkets to sell pork from British farms, despite a glut of cheap foreign pork caused by turmoil in Ukraine.
Over 80 percent say supermarkets should continue to stock high levels of British meat to maintain consumer confidence following the 2013 Horsegate scandal, according to YouGov research released today by the National Pig Association.
Since August, when Russia imposed an embargo on European Union meat in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine, there has been a glut of pork on the continent. But British shoppers are keen for supermarkets to stick to their post-Horsegate commitments to stop importing not-so-easily-traced foreign pork, and to major on pork from British pig farms, says NPA.
The YouGov research found:
"Consumers have always been loyal to British pig farmers, particularly after Horsegate, but even we have been surprised by this significant vote of confidence in the quality of our pork, bacon, sausages and ham," said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp, who farms in East Yorkshire.
"This research suggests supermarkets are delighting shoppers by sticking to their Horsegate promises to sell more British meat, despite the current provocation of a mountain of cheap meat piling up in continental cold stores."
NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said, "The quality and taste of domestic pork and pork products is underpinned by the high welfare methods of British pig farms. Nearly half our pigs spend some of their lives outdoors, over 90 percent are covered by the independently-audited Red Tractor quality assurance scheme and almost a third are also inspected by RSPCA for its Freedom Food animal welfare label.
"This YouGov research shows shoppers are in no doubt that supermarket commitments following Horsegate to source more British meat have played an important role in restoring confidence in the meat on supermarket shelves."
NPA has particular praise for the British pork "hundred-percenters" as identified by the industry's most recent Porkwatch survey, namely Waitrose, M&S, Budgens, the Co-op, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, and hard discounter Aldi.
YOUGOV RESEARCH RESULTS
Brussels must match us in
February 26, 2015
The British pig industry has made huge strides in professionalism — but in some areas it is being sold short by Brussels, National Pig Association chairman Richard Longthorp told MEPs today (Thursday February 26).
He said British pig-keepers were proud of their professional standards and urged others in Europe to adopt and demonstrate similar standards in order to inspire consumer confidence in the safety and wholesomeness of European Union pork.
But in several ways the industry was shackled by a Brussels executive that did not always inspire confidence in producers or consumers, he claimed — citing insufficient checks and enforcement of the 2013 gestation stall ban, and an apparent reluctance to introduce country of origin labelling for processed meats, even lightly processed products such as bacon, ham and sausages.
“We live in an era where consumers have been faced with a host of real and potential issues and continue to seek more assurances regarding food safety, provenance and ethical and environmental criteria,” he told MEPs at a British bacon-and-eggs breakfast organised by the National Farmers Union in association with National Pig Association.
“The British pig industry believes Brussels has a responsibility to address any legitimate and evidence-based concerns, but not to kow-tow to the whims of every lobby group around,” he said.
“Being professional is not simply about doing a good job. It’s about doing a job with a high degree of competence that is clearly demonstrable, thereby inspiring confidence.” It was essential, he said, that all food producers inspired confidence in consumers, regulators and society at large.
He highlighted the steps towards professionalism taken by the British industry, including Real Welfare audits, certification of husbandry standards, recording on-farm use of antibiotics and independently-auditing more than 90 percent of pigs for regulatory compliance and good practice.
And in order for people in the industry to demonstrate their growing professionalism, the industry had now introduced a professional register, which recorded the continued professional development of farm staff, he told MEPs. “We in Britain are extremely proud of our professional standards and I would hope that others in the European Union would share our enthusiasm for professionalism.”
Given all these advances, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) afforded a big opportunity for Europe’s high-welfare pork, but it also posed a threat, he warned. “If internal European Union pork markets are opened up to pork produced to lesser standards and with a consequent lower cost of production there is absolutely no doubt what will happen. European Union pig production will be exported to countries with lower standards. We saw this happen in Britain 15 years ago when we introduced our unilateral stalls ban.”
NPA will tell MEPs why
February 23, 2015
British pig farmers will lay claim to being the most forward-looking in Europe when they join MEPs for a British breakfast in Brussels on Thursday (February 26).
They will cite the the industry’s skilling-up programme in readiness for the global food challenges of the future, along with ground-breaking animal welfare audits and an advanced tracing system for every pig.
‘Combine this can-do attitude with the fact that 90 percent of our pigs are covered by an independently-audited quality assurance scheme and almost a third are also inspected by RSPCA for its animal welfare label, and you can see we really do have something to shout about,’ National Pig Association chairman Richard Longthorp will tell MEPs at a British bacon-and-eggs breakfast organised by NFU in association with NPA.
‘We're unsubsidised, we’re close to our customers and we work closely with government and regulators to meet societal aspirations, so please help us take further giant strides, by championing our products and our methods,’ he will tell MEPs.
At the breakfast, NPA officials will pursue the sector’s new ‘Keep-It-Up’ messaging which reminds consumers why British pork earns a premium over commodity pork produced on the continent, and urges retailers to stick to their Horsegate promises to delight shoppers by sourcing more British pork.
Horsegate's legacy is more
January 14, 2015
Brent Crude isn't the only commodity that's falling in price. Pork has dropped 20p since summer, and it's still falling.
'You wouldn't expect us to welcome the steady decline in pig producer prices over the past few months — but we do applaud the fact that these price drops are helping retailers and foodservice to delight customers with lower prices for British pork and pork products,' says National Pig Association chairman Richard Longthorp.
National Pig Association is taking the opportunity, on the second anniversary of Horsegate, to commend retailers for remaining committed to British pork, particularly in the face of intense provocation from mainland Europe where Russia's meat embargo is causing serious market difficulties.
'Retailers are sticking to the promises they made after Horsegate to source more British pork because it is a quality, farm-assured product, with a short, transparent supply chain,' said Richard Longthorp.
In particular NPA praises the British pork 'hundred-percenters' as identified by the industry's Porkwatch survey, namely Waitrose, M&S, Budgens, the Co-op, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, and hard discounters Aldi and Lidl.
'Pork is not only the most versatile of meats, it remains outstanding value — which is particularly important whilst consumers remain price conscious in what, for many, are still challenging times,' says Mr Longthorp. 'With a 20p a kilo drop in pig prices since June, the value of British pork is now even greater, especially as customers are getting a locally-produced high-quality product.'
To return to the pre-Horsegate days of sourcing meat solely on price, and regardless of origin, would be the worst kind of short-termism, he said. 'The huge surge in the popularity of British pork we have seen since Horsegate has led to a period of recovery in the British pig industry, with investment in staff training and apprenticeships, new facilities, new technology and new accommodation — and everybody has benefited.'