24 May 2002

How an organic pig marketing scheme grew…

By Jessica Buss

COLLABORATION through the pork supply chain has seen an organic marketing business grow. Eastbrook Farms Organic Pigs now takes 750 pigs a week from 30 producers on long-term contracts.

These producers benefit from an 18 month to two year contract with prices linked to feed costs, says the companys Tony Connolly. Most producers achieve a profit before finance charges of 15-20p/kg, he said.

This has been secured through the companys partnership with Associated British Nutrition which has dedicated organic feed mills. The 12 years marketing experience of Eastbrook Farms Organic Meats has also helped.

Collaboration through the supply chains with consumers recognising the integrity of the brand has fuelled its success to date, according to EFOP managing director Tim Finney.

"We plan to double output again in the next two years," said Mr Connolly. "At least half the organic pigmeat sold here is imported. Growth of our business is achievable depending on the decision of supermarkets to source from the UK and to promote organic foods.

"We are trying to match the number of producers converting with our expected growth to avoid oversupply. As a marketing company, we need to secure a margin for producers as well as ourselves."

But it can take as little as a year to convert pigs, if conversion can be backdated on set aside land which has received no inputs, he explained. Otherwise organic conversion takes two years.

EFOP standards are based on Soil Association rules, with a few extra requirements, added Mr Connolly. "Eastbrook promotes use of native pig breeds. Its founder, Helen Browning, uses Saddlebacks. Conventional outdoor sows are acceptable when crossed with a Duroc to ensure good meat quality."

Sow herds must run outdoors with growing pigs only housed during the final month of rearing. According to the companys guidelines each sow and her progeny will require 0.8ha (2 acres) and sows must usually be moved to a new area twice a year to maintain ground cover. All feed must be organic and sows must has access to growing forage.

"Technical advice is offered during the conversion period," said Mr Connolly. &#42

ORGANIC PIGS

* More UK produce wanted.

* 1-2 years to convert.

* Long term contracts.

There is an opportunity to sell more UKproduced organic pigmeat, with a large proportion currently imported, says Tony Connolly.

&#8226 More UK produce wanted.

&#8226 1-2 years to convert.

&#8226 Long term contracts.