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The Pig Price is not the Value

The drive to improve the long term prospects of the UK pig producer cannot just be about the pig price. The influence of the global perspective has to be considered. Therefore, every ‘campaign’ to encourage a greater domestic uptake of pork from UK farmed pigs is to be welcomed and appreciated, and every success in the export market also. Long term success is not built solely on a tide, however regular, however kind to the shore.

The following is a small listing of a few globally recognised branding of pig meat products, gourmet pork dishes, methods of cooking and the primal cuts. Danish bacon, Parma ham, Serrano ham, German Wurst. Pork neck curry, pork costolette, Balinese roast pork, caramelised pork belly, steamed pork dumplings, Maiali con melanzane pork, pork terrine, pork pizza, pork neck sliders. Roast, slow-roast, pan-searing, sautéing, stir frying, barbequing, braising, grilling, stewing. Shoulder, loin, leg and side/belly and from these a host of secondary cuts.

The globally recognised brands carry sovereign or regional provenance in the brand name and with this I believe comes history. The other characteristic of these brands is that they are processed pork product, they are distinctive and above all they are a consistently high quality experience. The experience of fresh pork inspired gourmet dishes, and there are new creations every day from the world’s top chefs, in the world’s top restaurants, instagrammed and twittered before being enjoyed by discerning palates, demands the very best in quality. This quality is enhanced by the varied methods these adventurous and passionate chefs employ. But there has to be quality in the pork to begin with. The versatility of pork in preparation and the diversity in presentation are also a great strength.

Commentators who understand the vagaries of global demand and the politics of world trade are currently forecasting a very slow recovery of the pig price. Yet no one is questioning the value of pork for what it is. Is it simply economics, or is there another control of demand that we do not understand. Control, whatever it is, should not be the enemy of possibility.

Producers could become packers or at least think like packers. If they were packers however, would they be pleased with what they are currently producing. A packer, at least those for whom partnership is primary to their integrity will require, of the pig producer, consistency above all else. Each consignment should be the same as the last, in number (unless variation is agreed0, in average carcass weight and carcass confirmation. There are several other details that do not need to be raised here. I believe that if a pig producer did become a packer, sending their pigs into an abattoir and then purchasing the carcasses back for value added processing, branding and marketing, they would certainly begin to ‘up’ their game or go out of business. Why?

The value of the pig is far more than the price that is paid for it. Pig producers are hard pressed to realise the real value of the pigs they work so hard to produce because they have no control over the price, predicated as it is on the absence of the quality enhancing ingredient, intramuscular fat, because it is intrinsically linked to back fat. The processor names the price, based on market influence, and proceeds to add financial penalties to protect themselves against the variation of the product delivery and quality. After this the pig becomes a pawn in the game of consumer chess played by dividend driven retailers.

Ignorance is ignoring truth, and the truth is that the pig is possibly the most complete livestock fit in the jigsaw of global food sustainability. That is the value of the pig.

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