3 July 1998

Linked contract to aid pig producers

By Victor Robertson

A NEW linked contract aimed at providing a better deal for pig producers and consumers has been launched this week by Dalehead Foods, the East Anglian-based pigmeat processing group.

Producers will be offered long-term rolling contracts with prices linked to the cost of production and lean meat yield.

This will be measured by a state-of-the-art data-capture system at the companys new £5.5m butchery and retail packing plant at Linton, near Cambridge.

The new factory is dedicated to the Waitrose supermarket chain, which has formed a unique partnership with Dalehead and the Pig Improvement Company (PIC).

This is based on a high welfare, straw-based production system, with no antibiotic growth promoters, using a genotype – PICs Camborough 12 and 15 gilts with NPD boars – specially bred for Waitrose. The carcasses are processed to MLC pork blueprint standards, aimed at providing pork with enhanced eating qualities.

Producers, who must be members of the FABPigs scheme, may choose the option of the companys minimum price system.

"This new linked contract scheme should help to take a lot of uncertainty out of the business for producers who have to deal with a volatile market," said Tony Ambler, managing director of Dalehead.

Richard Sadler, head of meat, poultry and dairy foods buying at Waitrose, said: "Waitrose has always worked closely with its meat suppliers and for the past 10 years has used a small number of specialist packers to supply meat to its own exacting standards."

With six plants across southern England, from Bury St Edmunds to Bristol, the Dalehead Group handles more than 1m pigs a year, or about 10% of the UK kill. Turnover last year was £167m.

Grenville Welsh, chief executive of the British Pig Association, welcomed the move. "It links a well respected multiple retailer, whose support of the home industry is well known, with an innovative food manufacturer.

"It provides long-term contracts which, in the current climate, must be seen as a progressive move. Niche marketing like this helps the whole market grow. Of course, we would hope that the prices offered also reflect the even higher standards demanded."