Producers look in vain for pig welfare premium

By Peter Crichton

UK producers remain frustrated that despite the introduction of the stall-and-tether ban at the start of the year no premium for their welfare friendly product has yet materialised.

Out of the big six countries in the European pig business, only Danish and Dutch prices are lower than the – and these are for 17-25kg 0heavier carcass weights, with far lower bottom-line deductions.

A recently published NOP poll shows that 74% of British people questioned believe that supermarkets should only sell pigmeat produced without the use of stalls and tethers, described as “cruel systems” in the poll.

But although all the UK supermarkets have to some extent indicated more support for the home-produced product, only Marks and Spencer have at this stage come out with a 100% UK-only policy, claims Compassion In World Farming.

Although other major multiples have made a variety of announcements over their buying policies, these have all been of a more selective and qualified basis, using terms such as “fresh pork” or “loose bacon”.î

With the AESA languishing at 64.71p/kg – against cost production figures of 90-100p/kg – many producers have warned that more herds will be culled and the slaughtering industry will be faced with up to 30% more than its capacity by the second half of the year.

This trend is confirmed by the announcement of the latest MAFF figures for December 1998. These show that the UK herd has contracted by 11.6% over the year to stand at 845,000 head, a drop of 100,000 breeding pigs.

On the slaughtering front, the reduction in the size of the UK herd has yet to filter down. The December 1998 weekly finished pig kill stood at 306,500, compared with 300,250 in 1997.

Many trade sources believe that once the shortage in numbers begins to bite, we will see domestic prices rise, but the effect of cheaper supplies in other EU and world markets will still have a lagging effect on UK returns.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry

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