Big isn’t always beautiful

In early June, the World Pork Expo was held in the US. It’s a similar, but larger, event compared to our Pig Fair. I attended about 15 years ago and there were 40 different genetic companies exhibiting, which was understandable as the country claims to supply 44% of the world’s meat and protein requirements.

The event was expecting 20 companies this year, some quite small in comparison, and the US claims that there are now only six real genetics companies left worldwide. I suppose because America is big, and everything in America is also big, that they’re referring to international sizeable breeding companies.

Big isn’t always beautiful, and although our list of UK genetic companies has reduced from 12 when Pig World started in 1987, to four major ones now, I would wager that the performance we get here would stand up to scrutiny anywhere in the world.

I never gave a thought all those years ago as to how much genetics companies would consolidate. Financial constraints and market demands for a superior product for our farmers to use to fill a demand for lower costs and increased productivity, taste, flavour, and a more consistent product have almost certainly been at the forefront in the decline of companies.

Things are so different today; the local butcher is no longer able to buy his stock from a local market, and he could deal with any type of pig. Rules and regulations have done away with village abattoirs, and of course supermarkets now dictate from every angle.

We have certain organisations these days that pan the eating of meat, and no doubt with a modicum of success, but I have always believed in all things in moderation, and meat certainly hasn’t done me any harm. Genesus from Canada, certainly has a huge role in world pig production, and it reckons if it could get every American to eat just one more pork meal per month, there would be the need for another eight million hogs.

If we translate that into the UK then that would be about another one million pigs, and then perhaps our industry might just manage to break even! That would give us another 35,000 sows or so, and might just help the arable man to obtain another £1/t or so for his cereals!

I have no wish to knock our native breeds, they all have their own individual characteristics which have stood them in good stead over many years, and are still widely sought after in several overseas countries. What they gave us originally was the material with which to cross breed and provide us with hybrid vigour. There’s no doubt that all breeding companies have stock derived from purebreds, and over the years they’ve worked hard to intermingle the best of both sides, which we now see in the fantastic performance we have here today.

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About The Author

Sam Walton is a Yorkshire farmer and former pig producer, and the founding editor of Pig World.