4 September 1998

Conversion is now name of the game

DANISH pig producers will not meet the deadline for complete stall and tether free systems by Jan 1, but an increase in UK supply premium will encourage more to convert.

So says Danish Bacon and Meat Council marketing director John Howard. "We need more producers to convert to preserve the Danish reputation in the UK market. From Jan 1 next year the premium for meeting UK specification will increase from 2p/kg to 3p/kg as an incentive."

The biggest issue for Danish producers is how independent auditing, demanded by UK buyers, can be done: "Its an issue thats being discussed, and well know the outcome by Oct 1," says Mr Howard.

The other main criteria to meet UK retailers demands are removal of stall and tether systems, banning the use of MBM, restricting use of antibiotics to pigs under 35kg liveweight and ending castration.

About 12%-15% producers have converted to loose-housing at a cost between £100 to £700/sow place, according to Borge Mortensen, head of production and housing at Danske Slagterier. "A further 20%-25% are in the process of converting."

According to Mr Howard, 30% of Denmarks 19,000 producers would have to covert to satisfy UKs 230,000t demand for pigmeat. "It could take up to 18 months to achieve," he says.

Producers are being signed up, but its not until veterinary visits are conducted that some UK suppliers are found to be running both stall and tether and loose systems in parallel. "Where vet audits find producers wanting in certain areas, theyll be out," says Mr Howard.

The removal of meat and bone meal isnt a problem, says Neils Kjeldsen, Danske Slagteriers head of nutrition and reproduction. "In Denmark MBM is Dkr2.40/kg and soya Dkr2.27/kg – its cheaper to use soya. MBM fed pigs will be exported to eastern markets instead."

Growth promoters use has been banned in Denmark for all pigs over 35kg liveweight. In smaller pigs, a government tax of Dkr5/pig (50p/pig) applied to antibiotics at the point of sale removes the advantage of antibiotic use as a growth promoters, adds Mr Kjeldsen. Where antibiotics are detected in carcasses in pigs over 35kg liveweight, fines of £1.50/finished pig can be imposed.

Castration remains an issue: UK retailers want it stopped while other importers, particularly Germany, wont accept meat from entire boars because of taint. As the UK imports mainly bellies and hams, ending castration would leave surpluses of forequarter meat which are difficult to sell as good prices, says Mr Howard.

Danish pig producers currently face similar difficulties to

their UKcounterparts, but co-operation is helping stem

financial losses. Simon Wragg reports


&#8226 Auditing still an issue.

&#8226 Stalls & tethers going.

&#8226 No MBM or antibiotics.

&#8226 Castration ban a concern.

Only 12-15%of Danish producers have converted fully to loose housing. Higher premiums, rising to 3p/kg may encourage more to follow.