Simon Grey, General Manager European Region

Pig price in Europe has come back 10% to 12% since it peaked in July. However declining feed price means good profitability for most regions of Europe. Good for today for sure, but what about the future? The pig cycle is the pig cycle, always has been and we can only assume it always will be.

Lots of things in Europe are changing. For pig producers it is ever increasing new rules and regulations regarding animal welfare and the environment. Regardless of these being good or bad or wrong or right pig farmers are going to have to put up with this!

Reality is that only 4.5% of the population in Europe work in Agriculture. Politicians want power so mostly create policy that they believe are popular and give them the power they crave. Supermarkets also want market share and profitability. Their marketing policies also are driven by popular consensus…

Despite this trend towards “what the public want” there is a very worrying trend, we see is declining pork consumption! `Looking at the data, this decline in pork is not part of a decline in total meat consumption, at least to date (this is predicted in the future).

EU meat consumption by meat type (kg per capita). Tuesday December 10, 2019/ DG Agri/ European Union.

This data is very much in line with what we see in the United Kingdom. The UK was one of the first European countries to introduce strict animal welfare rules for pigs. Sow stalls were completely banned in the UK in 1999. Other “consumer and voter demand” was very high welfare outdoor systems. Today 40% of pigs in the UK are kept outdoors. Despite all of this pork consumption has declined whilst meat consumption in general has increased.
Maybe more worrying when looking at the following map of Europe is generally Europe is pork eating!

So why the decline? And more importantly what can we do to reverse this decline?

In Europe in general pig farmers have done everything asked of them by “the market”. Firstly, there was the health issues around fat. Pig farmers have made pigs leaner and leaner. We then have all of the issues around animal welfare. Pig farmers again have invested to comply with these demands. Another issue, environmental damage caused by pig farms. Once again pig farmers have invested to reduce many of the potential negatives….

What has all of this done to increase pork consumption. Nothing whatsoever. Despite all of this pork consumption has fallen.

Think about some of this further. Beef and Sheep consumption has also fallen. These are generally extensively reared animals, so perceived good welfare. At the same time chicken consumption has increased. Chicken of course is an intensively reared meat – so all of the same perceived problems of this type of farming has on health, welfare and environment.

Based upon all of this I think we can conclude most of what we are told “consumers want” they don’t. If they did why are 3 meats being consumed less and chicken more?

What is the major difference between Pork, beef and Sheep meat vs Chicken. Consistency! Look at the very large genetic differences in cattle and sheep. From the ultra-lean continental breeds to the heavily marbled breeds (and all of the crosses that can be produced). The means very very variable product.

In pig production we have mostly the same issues. Very inconsistent product and today a lot of pork that is lean and dry…

With chicken you know 99.9% what you are buying. It is very easy to buy. Its very easy to put on a shopping list and send someone else to the supermarket to buy……. Limited number of cuts and very consistent taste and texture… It’s the obvious safe choice!!

So what does this tell us pig farmers? I think it should tell us to actually focus on what the consumer genuinely pays for. Not welfare, environment or lean. They spend on a product that is safe to buy. Consistent in taste and texture!!

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This post was written by Genesus