Raporal Makes Tastier Pork

by 5m Editor
11 March 2011, at 12:00am

Every day, four trucks leave from the Raporal factory, on the outskirts of Montijo in Portugal to the warehouses of Jerónimo Martins (JM).

Each truck carries between 20 and 25 tonnes of pork.

The company calls it the ‘Pig With More Flavour’ but in reality, it is the result of a project that took three years, cost €20 million and was recently awarded a national award – The Portugal Winner.

Innovation was the driving force behind the project, forcing the company to change the way it produced its meat. The genetic line was changed, as well as the feed and the environment in which the animals are reared.

The meat, which is tastier and tender, is sold under the brand Pingo Doce from Group JM (Pingo Doce, Feira Nova, Recheio and Lidosol) thanks to a five-year contract worth €250 million.

It All Started in a Simple Exchange of Words

Jerónimo Martins of Raporal has received a national award for a project that promises better pork under the brand Pingo Doce.

"The project 'Pig With More Flavour' came from a conversation with the heads of Pingo Doce, who believed that meat consumed today is too industrial, without flavour, reminiscent of chicken and missed the meat that was eaten in the past in his grandparents' house" says Mário Guarda, one of the directors of Raporal.

The suggestion soon stirred the waters. In January 2008, Raporal threw itself into the project. Interestingly, one of the first requirements was to ensure that this new meat had more fat.

Fat Gives Flavour

"In general, consumers prefer lean meat, but this is not idea,l" explains the director, Nuno Ramalho.

"In this new product, we have intramuscular fat, those veins in the middle of the meat, which avoids the need to add oil or other fats," he adds.

To accomplish this, the whole process of creation and production had to be changed.

The first step was to create a particular genetic line that produced a higher-quality meat, not one for manufacturing.

Raporal achieved this in partnership with PIC, the genetics company. The pigs must be castrated so that the meat flavour is not so intense and does not have boar taint.

The facilities where the animals are raised have been improved and the pigs are now slaughtered later than usual to encourage the deposition of intramuscular fat.

The pigs' diet has more vegetable fat, to make it appear that the animal had walked into a field to graze on acorns and was not fed commercial feed.

Rebuilding work was carried out at the slaughterhouse so that the meat could be chilled at more appropriate temperatures.

In total, Raporal invested more than €20 million in the project.

Now they have started to collect prizes, having recently received The Portugal Winner, an award for animal production and health sponsored by Intervet Schering-Plough.

At present, the production volume of Raporal is still 45 per cent of what was agreed in the contract but in October, when it reaches full capacity, the company will produce between 350 and 400 tonnes of meat a week, making 18,000 to 19,000 tonnes annually.

"In five years, 100 million kilos of meat is contracted to be produced, which means that every Portuguese person will eat, on average, 10kg of meat by 2016," says Mr Guarda.

In addition, the contract guarantee with Grupo Jerónimo Martins allows Raporal to avoid price fluctuations that affect the sector. With the rising prices of feed commodities (including cereals, essential in the diet) and fuel (diesel, used in transport), meat producers have seen their costs of production increase.

"With this fixed price contract we are out of the war in the markets and do not compete with the same product with all our competitors," says Nuno Ramalho. The same happens with other farmers who joined the company. To be able to ensure the production quota asked by Jerónimo Martins, Raporal contracted with nine other smaller producers.

Regarding cost, the company says that the ‘Pig With More Flavour’ will represent an increase of price of less than 75 Euro-cents per month. "In other words, for the price of one coffee more per day, people will eat better with better meat quality," contends the administrator, Pedro Lagoa. Moreover, according to Raporal, the price of meat is, nowadays, 25 per cent cheaper than it was five years due to increasing competition in the sector, mainly through imports. Mr Lagoa adds that currently, more than half of the meat we eat comes from overseas.

*PIC is the international leader in providing genetically superior pig breeding stock and technical support for maximising genetic potential to the global pork chain. PIC combines quantitative sciences with leading edge biotechnology to develop non-GMO breeding stock that is focused on meeting the needs of its customers.

Article courtesy of Ana Rita Faria from "O Publicoquot;&, Portugal.

March 2011