2 April 1999

A process to put

back the profit

Getting a butcher to turn

your pigs into bacon, ham

and sausages and then

selling them yourself could

be a lot more profitable than

marketing them through

conventional channels, as

Beds butcher Simon Boddy

explained to David Cousins

PIGS, as anyone who hasnt been living on the North Pole for the last couple of years knows, dont make any money at the moment. And yet the processed products that come from a pig – bacon, sausages, ham, even black pudding and faggots – sit on the supermarket shelves with fat price tags on them.

You could, of course, do the processing yourself. But that means buying the kit, learning butchery techniques and boning up on a whole mass of new legislation and form-filling. So what can you do to add value to your pigs?

Simon Boddy, whose butchery business The Best Butcher operates from a converted farm building at Great Brickhill between Leighton Buzzard and Milton Keynes, has an idea that involves a true partnership between farmer and butcher. He takes small batches – five or 10 at a time – of pigs from local farmers and smallholders, has them delivered direct from the abattoir and brings his butchery skills to bear on the carcasses.

These are converted into processed products on the premises. The bacon is dry cured – "its a secret recipe," he says – and then smoked for a day or two over either oak, beech or hickory chips. Similarly, the hams are dry-cured and delicious. Sausages? Simon Boddy has hundreds of recipes and if youve got a particular favourite hell make a batch of those for you. Hell happily do black pudding, faggots or any other pork product, too.

At the end of the day, all these mouth-watering foods come back to the farmer for him to market. Simon Boddy simply charges by the kg for the processing. The cost obviously depends on what hes producing, but he points out that all the products can be sold at a premium price. He can even provide the sort of attractive labelling necessary to sell into these markets.

The theory is sound enough, he points out. Instead of getting 30-35p/lb at a wholesale market, you should be able to sell these products for at least £1/lb. Even if he charges 50p/lb for processing, that still leaves a better margin than hitherto.

Some farmers may balk at the thought of having to market all these packs of sausage and bacon, but Mr Boddy points out that theres an increasing market for premium quality, "old fashioned" foods. Local pubs and restaurants could well be interested, as could farm shops. Or you could sell it yourself at the farm gate. Either way, you can do a bit of research into whether or not there is a local market before committing yourself to having any pork processed.

Mr Boddy also points out that this way, the farmer doesnt have to get involved with the mass of legislation surrounding the butchery business. He has several clean food awards on his wall and is in the process of getting his HACCP plan – the standard to which all licensed butchers must now conform.

Simon Boddy can be contacted on 01908-375275.