Demand for Free-range Pork Soars After TV Expose

NEW ZEALAND - Demand for free range-pork is rocketing with consumer concern for the welfare of pigs, say producers.
calendar icon 9 June 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Gregor Fyfe, co-founder of pork, bacon and ham producer Freedom Farms, said the Auckland-based company had received a huge number of calls and demand had nearly doubled since a TVNZ programme last month which featured comedian Mike King and the treatment of pigs.

The company licensed its manufacturing and sourced its pork from seven South Island farms which did not use sow stalls, farrowing crates or concrete pens and were certified by the SPCA, according to The New Zealand Herald.

Some of the new demand could drop away as memory of the programme receded but it would settle at a much higher level, Mr Fyfe said.

"Hope I'm wrong, hope they all stay, there will be strong ongoing growth, there's no question."

Freedom Farms started a little over three years ago, supplied nearly two-thirds of supermarkets and had seen 80 per cent growth year on year, he said.

The sows lived outdoors in open fields all the time, Mr Fyfe said.

"They have their own little chalets, they build a nest in it, they give birth in this chalet, piglets stay with them in the open field so there are absolutely no sow crates or farrowing crates whatsoever."

New Zealand farmers did not really want to be lumped in with big intensive production overseas, Mr Fyfe said.

"It make sense for us to be differentiating ourselves on some grounds and what better than the welfare grounds," he said.

"We just knew there's a lot of consumers who aren't driven entirely by that [price] but they're actually driven by wanting a better-quality eating experience or a more natural or more healthy product."

Farmers Markets New Zealand chairman Chris Fortune said the markets gave people the opportunity to talk to producers.

"Farmers' markets also give pork producers the opportunity to build loyalty and tell their individual story so they don't get tarred with the same brush as disreputable producers."

Indoor pork producers were also represented at farmers markets.

"It doesn't matter what the food or issue is, choose to buy from the people who grow it or make it," Mr Fortune said.

"Choose to buy your food from people who can give you the answers to your questions."

Jonathan Walker, from Soggy Bottom Holdings in Ngaruawahia, which specialises in free-range pork from old, rare pig breeds, cannot keep up with a demand which has seen sales nearly double in the past three to four weeks.

"It's true that my product is a more expensive product, but if that is your major concern then I would argue that at the end of the day you need less of it," Mr Walker said. "It's all about taste."

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