Overview of This Week's Pig Industry News

13 February 2012, at 11:28pm

ANALYSIS – US domestic pork consumption will drive 2012 growth in the industry, according to the latest forecast from a market analyst. He put pig meat output up 1.5 per cent this year, and sees higher profitability than 2011, with China as the key export market. Also in the news, writes senior editor, Jackie Linden, are allegations of welfare abuses in the US and the UK and China is to improve food safety by focussing on small and medium-sized pig slaughterhouses.

Speaking at the Allendale Ag Leaders Outlook Conference last month, Rich Nelson, Allendale director of research, said that the key driver for the 2012 US meat industry is the US consumer.

Expectations for meat indicate pork will see a 1.5 per cent increase, he said. Based on USDA expectations, beef will drop by 6 per cent. Again noting USDA numbers, chicken, pork's main competitor, will be down four per cent this year.

Total meat consumption will be down three per cent as a result of these drops in production, in 2012, the US will offer its own consumers the lowest amount of meat since 1984. Mr Nelson says this will create a US meat deficit.

In terms of the potential for US pork exports, China is a key market, he said. Traditional customers like Japan and South Korea will grow, but while China has, in the past, supplied most of their own pork, its five per cent growth expected over the next four years could require more pork than they can produce.

Five years ago, 65 per cent of US exports went to three countries - Japan, Mexico and Canada. And today, 58 per cent of US exports go to China, Japan and South Korea.

Following two years of profit in the US pig industry and another good year forecast, Mr Nelson said: “Expansion is the driver to watch.

“For 2012, we'll have more pork produced,“ he said.

If a recent USDA survey was correct, expectations call for a moderate increase the first half of the year, and the second half of the year shows almost the same type of numbers.

He added that a 1.5 per cent increase in production is outlined for 2012 but much of this increase will be pulled for export. Brazil, a serious pork producer and a serious competitor to the US, is expected to see a 2.1 per cent increase in production, while EU output is expected to be down.

China has vowed to eliminate sub-standard pork processing in the country within the next few months as part of a campaign to ensure food is safe, officials have said.

“Some small and medium-sized slaughterhouses and processors that have the proper authorisation now fail to meet the standards for meat processing, and that has raised great potential risks for the country's meat supply,“ announced Jiang Zengwei, deputy minister of commerce, last week. The main goals are to prevent water-injected meat and meat from sick animals or other substandard products from reaching the market, he said.

In the UK over the weekend, an animal welfare group has released video footage and photographs that appear to show animal abuse at a farm in Norfolk. The group, Animal Equality, embraces veganism and used undercover methods to obtain their evidence. However, if their evidence is substantiated, criminal proceedings may follow. Industry bodies and farmers must be seen to condemn cruelty by animal welfarists and the general public.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has turned its attention to a US pork company over welfare issues. HSUS is alleging false and misleading statements being made by Seaboard Foods, the nation's third-largest pork producer and a supplier to Walmart, in response to a recent undercover investigation video of one of the company's Oklahoma pig breeding facilities.