English pig industry report

13 January 2009

Defra must help the pig industry identify how it can improve efficiency and productivity to prevent further decline. The adherence of the pig industry to high welfare standards has drawn into question the price that they receive for the product.

Much of the evidence received by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee points to the fact that the industry does not receive its fair share of the retail price when taking into account the cost of production and the investment needs of the industry.

In a report out today on the English pig industry, the Committee says that although the pig industry is highly competitive and is well known for being cyclical, the last ten years have seen a steady decline in the scale and productivity of the English pig industry and an increase in the pig meat imported into the UK to satisfy consumer demand.

The lack of transparency in the supply chain leads farmers to form the view that they are not getting their fair share. UK pigs cost more to produce than their EU counterparts. The industry blames this on the effects of disease outbreaks, high feed prices, burdensome environmental regulations and the high cost of the introduction of new welfare standards of housing for pigs in 1999.

However, evidence to the Committee questioned whether pig production is as efficient as it could be in the UK, whether carcase utilisation could be improved, and whether there is sufficient demand to support both producers and processors in the supply chain.

The Committee considers that the Government has an important role to play in facilitating round table discussions to ensure better cooperation within the pig supply chain. These discussions could help the industry identify how it can help itself to improve its efficiency and productivity through health, welfare, research and marketing strategies.

In addition it says Defra must continue to:

  • Advise other Government departments and public bodies on the welfare standards of farm assurance schemes in order to encourage them to adopt a more innovative approach in public sector procurement of pig meat.
  • Liaise closely with the industry on its Health and Welfare Council.
  • Fund research into the pig-specific diseases which have severely impacted on the industry in recent years.

The Report finds that the Government should discuss with the Scottish administration the common issues facing both Scottish and English pig industries.

Pig producers are rightly proud of their high welfare standards, but the Committee believes that they have not successfully promoted to the consumer the justification for the higher cost of English pig meat. Retailers and catering suppliers are responsible for ensuring that labelling of pig meat products is clear and unambiguous, but producers, animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA, and Government, have a role in making certain that consumers understand the difference between the standards of welfare in the various methods of pig production and ensuring that pig meat produced in the UK is of a high welfare standard.

Chairman of the Committee the Rt Hon Michael Jack said:

"The English pig industry’s adherence to high welfare standards has left it vulnerable to competition from European producers whose production methods do not match ours. Retailers and processors must look again at their supply chain relationships to ensure that they deliver a fair price to the producer whilst responding to consumer demand. At the same time the industry, with support from Defra, must look again at which steps its can take to reduce its costs and increase its productivity to ensure that it has a viable long term future."

Image: iStockphoto

More news on: Agriculture, animals, food and rural affairs, Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, Agriculture, Animals, Animal welfare, Food, Farmers, Commons news, Parliamentary business, Committee news

Share this page