It's time for a big push on "the other white meat"

by 5m Editor
6 October 2004, at 12:00am

UK - Somerset-based Alvis Brothers Limited, which finishes 35,000 bacon pigs a year, is successfully working with a number of butcher outlets, trying to cut cost from the chain and add real extra value.


National Pig Association

NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & Whitehall, and with processors, supermarkets & caterers - fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

This new thrust follows operation director Nick Green's Nuffield scholarship in search of supply chain opportunities, during which he visited Japan, Hawaii, Canada and North America. In his travels round the world he found one common theme: a commitment to promotion and advertising.

  • He found support from producers at all levels.

  • Promotion was by individual businesses, producer organisations and marketing groups.

  • Advertising was either national or at state/province level.
He was particularly impressed by advertising displays at airport arrival lounges, billboards on the side of motorways, even sponsored events at the Grand Ole Opry - anything to encourage consumers to put more pork on their fork.

His conclusion - the conclusion he is now acting on in the Alvis pig business - is that though British pig producers have to accept the majority of markets are likely to be commodity based, there will always be a place for niche markets.

He says individual producers need continually to search for opportunities to add value to their product, without distracting from on-farm technical efficiency. He wants to see a permanent site for the British pig industry - perhaps at Stoneleigh - where consumers can be educated about British pork as being best quality, value-for-money and healthy; he also proposes a mobile unit that would travel the country, spreading the word at shows and schools (Pig World, April 2004).

"Organisations such as the NPA need to work with education authorities, processors, retailers and farmers to educate the future consumer about pork production in a fun, transparent and health orientated way," he says. "The mystery and poor perception of low cost pork production need to be overcome by an honest, positive portrayal of the industry."

And he proposes that Defra, BPEX and producers organisations should research and launch a scientifically-rigorous healthy pork promotion based on "British pork - the other white meat".

He says his recommendations are not intended to be definitive for the British pig industry - more a foundation that the industry could build on. "What is definitive," he concludes, "is the dire state the industry is currently in and the realisation that something needs to be done."

Nick Green's intention when embarking on his Nuffield scholarship was to identify the causes of the current difficulties being experienced by British producers and consider ways of overcoming them. "It has opened doors for me and afforded me the opportunity to put into practice some of the things that I feel necessary to revitalise a tired sector of the industry," he says in his report, Opportunities for innovation in the pig supply chain.

He argues that individual producers can develop niche markets and supply chains to attract a premium price for their differentiated product, or they can reduce cost and compete effectively in the global commodity market.

But these two goals are not mutually compatible. They cannot easily be combined and therefore to achieve success it must be one or the other as each option requires a different overall strategy.

Whichever route a producer chooses, it is essential to work hard on the supply chain and networks surrounding them, to generate opportunities for suppliers, producers, processors and retailers to generate additional margin.

When researching the British pig industry he found that producers fell into one of two camps:
  • Those that believe the future will only strengthen with outside influence, namely currency exchange rates.

  • And those who believe a collaborative effort between producers, processors and pigmeat users will strengthen the supply chain and provide better returns.

In reality, he says, better currency exchange rates would clearly strengthen the whole industry - whilst a combination of the two should enable British producers to compete effectively, even in a global marketplace.

In his paper, Nick Green charts the growth of poultry consumption since 1950 on the back of innovative products such as boneless joints, ready meals, breaded escallops and so on. During the same period beef consumption has fallen significantly and pork consumption has remained static.

Looking specifically at the pig industry supply chain he notes three primary stages, two intermediate, and a final stage that splits in four directions.

  • Primary: Genetics > farmer > abattoir.
  • Intermediate: First stage processor > second stage processor.
  • Final: Export/caterer/retailer/butcher > consumer.

He observes some chains that are fully integrated (Flagship Foods, Grampian Country Foods) and some that are fragmented. Generally though there is a long-term disconnect between producer and consumer and there needs to be more positive cooperation and collaboration through the chain.

The British pig industry should bear in mind that consumers will want less not more of conventionally prepared meats and the retailer is likely to be the producer's biggest ally in getting consumers to eat more pork.

On his Nuffield scholarship travels Nick Green noted Canadian producers' keenness to educate the consumers of tomorrow and their continual striving to raise awareness of pork through multimedia initiatives.

In the States he saw economies of scale, the use of "designer Pigs" to supply different markets at a premium price and considerable success by the National Pork Council at promoting pork as a healthy, good value meal.

Source: National Pig Association - 4th October 2004

5m Editor