23 June 1995

Making most of a big swing in taste

ONE Danish pig and beef farmer cashing-in on the consumer swing to organic produce is Ulrich Kern-Hansen.

Over the past eight months he has established a £1m a year plus marketing business for organic pork and beef products from his 22ha (55-acre) farm near Silkeborg, east Jutland. Here his wife Fie runs the outdoor pig unit, finishing 1000 head a year on grass.

At the farm Mr Kern-Hansen has established a new organic meat processing plant in modular container buildings to which an abattoir extension for pigs is to be built.

It has cost over £300,000 to date, and has been backed by a £50,000 grant from the Danish government. An application for further funding for the plant has also been made to the EU while an investment trust with a 40% stake in the business has chipped-in a further £50,000.

A Danish animal welfare organisation has also supplied the business with a new £25,000 sausage making machine free of charge.

The plant also buys-in organic beef and pig carcasses from other Danish organic farms, and is currently paying a 70% premium for organic pig carcasses.

While the carcass price to farmers of intensively produced pigmeat is currently less than DK10/kg (45p/lb), he is paying DK17/kg (75p/lb) for organic pig carcasses which he says he will have to increase this week to match the DK18.75/kg (84p/lb) now being paid for organic pig carcasses by one of his competitors.

"At present I could sell 100 times more organic pigmeat than I can get," he says.

"I am having to say no to new shops who want our produce every week, and am even having to ration some of our existing shop and supermarket customers."

The business is now employing eight people and making over 50 organic pork and beef convenience foods. Best sellers are everyday minces, sausages and pâtés.

Some 95% of sales are to supermarkets and shops.

all over Denmark, with 5% of sales of frozen products through a small farm shop. Sales over the next 12 months are forecast at DK10m (£1.1m).

* Ulrich Kern-Hansen is the author of Naturens Orden, a Danish book on organic farming, published in 1991.