By Philip Clarke and Tim Relf
MEAT and bonemeal is being banned from Danish pig rations under the terms of a new contract aimed specifically at the UK market.
In an attempt to stave off criticism that Danish pigs do not enjoy the same welfare conditions as their UK counterparts, the new contract, launched last week by industry body Danske Slagterier, also rules out the use of stalls and tethers for animals destined for the UK.
Danish pig producers will receive a 3p/kg premium from 1 January, 1999 to encourage them to take up the new code. Currently only 12% of sows are kept in loose housing systems throughout their pregnancies, compared with the 30% needed to meet UK demand. But 80% of all new investment is in confinement free systems, says Danish Bacon and Meat Council marketing director, John Howard, who is confident enough supplies will be forthcoming.
The new contract is additional to existing production controls in Denmark, which include a national salmonella screening programme, monthly veterinary visits and a full traceability system.
Danish product accounts for about 25% of all bacon sales in the UK, but it is believed to have lost market share in recent months due to the aggressive promotion of British bacon.
Latest EU production estimates suggest further bad news for pig farmers relying on lower supplies to boost prices.
Output could rise 5% in the year to June 1999, says Commission number crunchers Eurostat. The biggest upturn will be in Holland where a 40% rise will take slaughterings to 23 million head.
The rises, says the Meat and Livestock Commission, reflect the lag effect following expansion at times of more buoyant prices.
In the UK, however, sow slaughterings are running 25% above normal, leading to suggestions of a 12% herd size contraction this year.