Change the Competition

A common assumption in the UK pig production industry is that the direct competition of the pig farmer is the pig farmer next door, however far away next door actually is. This assumption, though understandable and quite possibly logical, is deeply destructive. It signals the acceptance of a terminal consequence of competition, for the British Pig Industry, the irony that victory of one will inevitably lead to the defeat of all.

In 1966 I had already begun to work at weekends as a 12-year-old on a small farm that kept pigs along with laying hens, beef cattle and fattening ducks. In 1966 British pig farming lead the world. In 1966 England won the football world cup. Ever since that time the fortunes of British pig farming and the England football team have shared a similar trajectory. The only difference is that the consumer will keep the flame of English football alive.

The assumption about competition in pig production is divisive. The ridiculousness of it is that the industry is pinning all of its hopes on the ‘British’ farm assurance badge and yet directly beneath this we have separate representative bodies. AHDB Pork and QMS collect sovereign levy based funding that should be converted into successful management and marketing strategies. It is for others to form their own opinions of the work of these bodies, for me at best it is a very mixed result. It also begs the question ‘what is meant by British’ if immediately beneath this claim is distinct separation into England and Wales versus Scotland. If I stay with the farm assurance premium, we then have the second competitive division which is best described as an either/or, some and some or nor at all, mish mash. Here I would restate the obvious, higher quality European pig meat can very quickly improve its welfare standards but British pig meat quality cannot respond with the same alacrity. Unless of course it embraces the use of boar taint/meat quality measures available and being employed within the global industry.

The true meaning of ‘British’ to this industry should denote that we work as one and will not be further divided by the current structure of the industry where at present the victory of one is the defeat of all.


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