Europe’s largest pig slaughtering business, Danish Crown, plans to expand its UK presence significantly over the next few years.

The firm, which operates as Tulip in the UK, kills and processes 35,000 pigs a week, but chairman Carsten Jakobsen told a Chartered Institute of Marketing conference last week that Danish Crown wanted to increase that by 10,000 pigs over the next two to three years.

“We are an international food business, but we believe in local food, so we want to source pigs from UK farms,” he said. “We want to make sure the raw material is available – either we’ll work with local farmers, or produce it ourselves.”

He said the firm would have a range of marketing agreements with farmers, although it was looking to grow the number of long-term (three to five-year) partnerships.

Mr Jakobsen remained optimistic about the future for UK pork production, despite the annual UK pig kill having fallen from 15 million pigs to 8.8m over the past decade and the UK now being just 35% self-sufficient. “Prices have improved from 130p/kg to 150p/kg, compared with a typical cost of production of 105-110p/kg, so hopefully the sow herd will increase as more producers see better prices coming through.”

Demand had remained firm, despite the recession. Pigmeat categories accounted for around 3.9% of the total grocery spend and 21% of all shopping baskets contained a pigmeat product, he said. “The supply chain is getting shorter and more difficult, therefore I think we will see further inflation in pork prices going forward,” he added.