New grading system offers pig producers a route to greater market security

by 5m Editor
21 May 2004, at 12:00am

UK - Grading carcases by the AutoFOM system, linked to animals of specific genetic merit, will help the UK pig industry become more competitive by identifying lines which can add value for the processor and retailer, predicts Tim Rymer, chief executive of international pig-breeding company, JSR Genetics.

JSR Genetics on

Speaking on the eve of the British Pig and Poultry Fair, he said: "Our distribution chain is one of the most successful in Europe with high standards and high expectations - a beacon to the world. For producers, the secret of success is going to be achieving a closer fit with their requirements."

Part of this challenge would be moving from a process-orientated approach of driving down costs to one of specialisation and adding value.

"We cannot compete on cost alone. We can't expect more money just because our product is British; it has to stand for something - fresher, tastier, greater tenderness, safer and more welfare- and environmentally-friendly.

"Processors now require tailor-made genetic combinations and the breeding company needs to deliver breeds that both optimise meat yield and deliver balanced performance at all levels of the production system."

Mr Rymer said that "preoccupation with the P2 grading system", which measured fat depth at a single position had been damaging. The concept that "one pig fits all" was at odds with the market place. A skinny pig with a P2 measurement of 12 mm received the same payment as a long pig with larger eye-muscle or a chunky pig with a high lean content. Producers were not paid for these superior carcases and, as a result, breeding companies had not been encouraged to invest in this area of their breeding programmes.

Tim Rymer, JSR Genetics chief executive, says processors
now require tailor-made genetic combinations to provide pigs which 'fit' their requirements
JSR Genetics, however, had maintained a range of robust, reliable breeding stock with a broad spectrum of boar types to produce distinctive end products. "It has been a leap of faith. Because of the anomalies of P2, it has not been easy to extract value for very lean animals with particularly high eating quality," he said. The company had retained a library of lines, including the Duroc, for years before it was possible to fully commercialise them.

"We have to be ahead of the market requirements by some 5-7 years, just to get products out of the breeding pyramid. Once we learn to specialise enough it will be extremely difficult for the low-cost operators in Europe to displace our products on the shelves."

Mark Haighton of Geo Adams & Sons Ltd, who with funding from DEFRA was the first UK processor to install an AutoFOM system, said that producers who had become used to being paid the most money for pigs with a low P2 might not necessarily see the same trend once the company changed to payment based on the AutoFOM. However, it was anticipated that high-yielding genetic lines would prove to be valuable in maximising producer returns. Feeding regimes would also have to be optimised to ensure that pigs expressed their full potential.

"By drawing on the wealth of specialist knowledge, producers will be able to supply exactly the sort of carcase that the processors demand. In doing so, they will guarantee maximum financial returns for their businesses."

Source: JSR Genetics - 12th May 2004

5m Editor