From the Wallingford Pig Study Group to PIC

by 5m Editor
6 February 2012, at 12:00pm

UK - In 1955, a group in the UK called the Wallingford Pig Study Group was concerned that the traditional purebred breeders were not producing the right pig for future markets.

The group met regularly at a pub called The George. The farmers invited a group of scientists to devise a way of producing a better hybrid pig.

Taking the scientists’ advice, the group bought the best pigs they could find and began to improve them by a process of selection. In 1962, the Pig Improvement Company (PIC) was formed.

Fifty years later, here’s a look back at the six men behind the company that would become, PIC, the international leader in swine genetics.

Ken Woolley: PIC’s mercurial visionary, whose insights and enthusiasm helped inspire the company’s earliest contributors to heights of innovation and achievement. Ken was among the first to see an opportunity too important to miss: "The breeders have got the pigs but haven’t a clue about pig breeding. The scientists know how to do it but haven’t got any pigs, and are too lazy to get out of their ivory towers and get some – so that’s where we come in!"

Ben Boughton: A PIC founder and shareholder who helped build the company until it was purchased by Dalgety in 1970, and who stayed on to provide mature guidance for many years. One of Ben’s most distinguished accomplishments was the winning of the Bulgarian contract in 1972.

Michael Cook: A Cambridge chemistry graduate and founding member of PIC, Michael became heavily involved in the control of the company’s finances during the start-up period, providing a critical expertise to an organization in which funds always seemed to be in short supply.

Andrew Melville: The original Chairman of PIC, who remained until the Dalgety purchase. Because of his unique ability to quietly handle the often chaotic activity behind the scenes – including the “wayward genius“ of Managing Director, Ken Woolley – Andrew has been recognized among the founders as "the difference between company success and collapse".

Michael Nicholson: Another critical contributor to the company’s founding, Michael possessed a unique knowledge of developments in the swine industry. His interest and experience in international agriculture, along with a knack for finding practical solutions to operational challenges, proved invaluable in the early going.

Douglas Thornton: As an agricultural economist at Reading University, Douglas conducted research on business development with pig farmers in the Wallingford area before forming the Pig Study Group—some of whose members decided to form PIC. As Company Secretary, he did the legal work to set up the company and helped negotiate the firm’s original bank loans.

"On the occasion of our company's 50th anniversary, we honour and commemorate these visionaries who formed our company," said Bill Christianson, COO of Genus Americas. "We continue to hold ourselves to these high ideals through our commitment to never stop improving pigs."