No More Home-Grown Bacon in the UK?

The pig farming industry in England is in crisis. From the Telegraph:

Farming leaders believe that a viable domestic pig sector could be wiped out within months unless urgent action is taken by the government and retailers. The national pig herd has already halved over the past 12 years.

Desperate UK pig farmers have doubled the usual number of breeding sows they are sending to slaughter to 7,000 a week because they can no longer afford to feed them following a doubling of wheat prices since last summer.

The high number of animals being culled lays bare a crisis that is devastating the pig industry. Wheat is the main constituent of pig feed, and, on average, farmers are losing £27 per pig due to the massive increase in overheads.

Peter Kendall, the president of the National Farmers Union, said that the pig industry is “on a knife-edge” and that there could be a “massive fall-out” by the summer unless action is taken.

According to the National Pig Association (NPA), the number of breeding sows being slaughtered each week is currently 7,000. This is double the usual figure of 3,500 sows, which are culled because they have reached the end of their productive life…

Given that sows produce an average of 21 piglets per year – whose meat ends up on supermarket shelves – the increase in slaughters will take at least 73,500 pigs out of the food chain within a year.

The crisis is affecting both commercial farmers who supply supermarkets, and pedigree farmers, who tend to sell through farm shops.

Jimmy Doherty, owner of the Essex Pig Company and star of the Jimmy’s Farm TV series, has had to slaughter 50 of his 95 rare-breed sows as the cost of feeding them has risen so steeply.

“I am busy killing my sows as I can’t afford to feed them. It is very, very difficult at the moment,” said Mr Doherty.

Pig-feed costs at his Pannington Hall Farm have risen from £130 a tonne in January to £225 today. “I’ve slashed my herd to bits. I will go down to a core of around 30 pedigree sows. It is a crisis. It is a very sad thing as people don’t see what is happening and don’t understand,” he said….

“We really should look at the price we pay for food. If beer prices go up, people will still spend £4 on a pint. But if bacon goes up, people say ‘I’m not paying that’,” he said.

“The supermarkets need to pay farmers more. Because they have such a stranglehold, they can say ‘If you don’t like it, shove off’,” he said.

The NFU’s Mr Kendall said that the UK market has been flooded with cheap pork imports from abroad. He said that 70pc of this pork would fail to meet domestic safety standards.

Supermarkets said they are doing what they can to help the industry. A spokeswoman for DEFRA said that the increase in feed costs is a “global phenomenon”. She said that a £12.5m package was made to the livestock sector last October. James Hall experiences the harsh realities of pig farming in Britain today

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  1. Anonymous

    The sooner we all eat that yummy bacon from China, the better.

    I say, if “free trade” wants me to eat it, it must be the right & natural thing for me and me children to eat.

  2. rexl

    all the unemployed mortgage brokers can get jobs on hog farms and wheat farms. now that will be a change.

  3. Deborah

    China’s hog industry isn’t exactly making money right now either.

    In mere months from now the increase supply due to premature slaughter halts and a lower level of pigs make it to the market. It then becomes a game of consumers paying excessive prices.

    If you like pork and have a big freezer, now’s the time to stock up.

  4. Anonymous

    Historically, during economic downturns, pork replaced beef as beef became too expensive to bring to market. According to the article, Pork is already taking itself out of the market. So, how bad is this really going to get?

  5. Anonymous

    Of all commodities, agricultural and non-agricultural combined, wheat has gone up the most in the past year. On the other hand, pigs are notoriously unfussy about what they eat.

    Surely some clever person can come up with reformulated pig feed at lower cost. Doesn’t Europe have a butter mountain and a wine lake?

    Too bad about the whole mad cow thing, otherwise you could feed the culled pigs to the survivors. Soylent Pink, anyone?

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