Tough selling for UK carcasses

DEMAND FOR domestic pig meat has dropped by more than 50% since 1998, and abattoirs claim that carcass stocks are now rising due to strong competition from imports.

Legs and loins are particularly hard to sell, and the National Pig Association is campaigning for better support for fresh British pig meat.

It claims that supermarkets are purchasing more “tertiary” brands – imported pig products packaged to give the impression they are British.

The switch to imports has led to a build-up of live pigs on GB units, which has been exacerbated by an estimated 5-10% bulge in domestic production levels.

This rise in pig numbers follows a return to better conception and growth rates linked to lower mortality during the summer period.

At the same time the number of abattoir outlets prepared to take non-contract pigs on a spot basis continues to decline.

Over the past 10 years the number of specialist GB pig abattoirs has fallen from 457 plants in 1993 to 203 in 2003.

According to the Meat and Livestock Commission the largest five companies now account for 58% of the market share.

As a result producers have found it hard to find abattoir space for surplus spot pigs at a time when a number of major processors are cutting throughputs.

Grampian Country Foods, GD Bowes and Dalehead Foods have all recently either reduced contract numbers or discussed revised pricing arrangements with some producers.
The NPA is therefore concerned that a lack of abattoir space is creating overcrowding on some farms.

With pigs rolled from one week into the next cash flow problems are rising and overweight pigs will suffer heavy price and grade deductions.