More emphasis must be put on improving the eating quality of pigmeat rather than continuing to focus on costs of production.

Jeff Wood, professor of food and animal science at Bristol University, said the public had begun to demonstrate a willingness to pay for quality and the pig industry should react.

“On a recent trip to Tesco’s meat aisle I saw smoked Wiltshire cured bacon, 250g, at 2.18 versus standard injected Danish imported product, again 250g, at 1.58.”

“People want quality and may be willing to pay – but what is quality?

First and foremost it’s taste, but also how it is reared; it’s about creating a feel-good factor.”

The UK industry needs to adopt finishing systems to improve eating quality of pig meat, he suggested.

“Intramuscular fat that can increase taste, tenderness and cooking characteristics can be manipulated by restricting protein in the last few weeks of finishing without jeopardising backfat levels,” he explained.

The British Pig Executive has focused too heavily on cost awareness, said Prof Wood.

The claim was quickly refuted by BPEX’s Mick Sloyan: “The main restriction to improving quality is having a payment system based on backfat.

With a move to AutoFoM, an ultrasonic carcass scanning system, that should change,” said Mr Sloyan.