Pigs 2022 – Pig sector should consider itself part of public health business

Pig farmers should consider themselves to be an integral part of the the human health business, public health expert Patrick Wall told the Pigs 2022 conference.

Professor Wall, from University College Dublin and a former chair of the European Food Standards Authority, delivered a highly entertaining speech on the second day of Pigs 2022 that also contained numerous pearls of wisdom for delegates.

He urged the pig industry to think more about what it could do to tap into the growing global demand for food that delivers nutritional and health benefits. He urged the industry to take control of the debate about the health implications of eating pork, which is currently all-too-often driven by scare stories about certain bugs, antibiotic use and the supposed negative long-term health effects of consuming products.

Among the memorable phrases delivered throughout his presentation, he told delegates: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

He added: “You are part of the human health business.”

Prof Wall cited the work done by feed company Devenish in producing chicken rich in Omega 3 as an example of what is achievable.

He used the analogy of pigs diets at different stages of production are targeted with the very different dietary formulations to aid their health and general wellbeing. The food industry, which he said does little to differentiate beyond baby food, should aim to do the same for human diets, with particular scope, he suggested, to create food, and possibly pork products, with traits that help reduce some of the problems associated with ageing.

Forge you own future

Earlier the conference heard the story of the recent entry of Sir James’ Dyson’s Beeswax Farms onto the farming landscape. Richard Williamson, managing director of the company, which owns thousands of acres of farmland in Lincolnshire and the Cotswolds.

He outlined the importance of getting the culture right within a farming business in order to succeed and also highlighted the need for the farming industry to do more to forge its own future, rather than wait for someone else to do it.

“Everybody seems to be waiting for something to happen. At the NFU conference, which was a great event, people were harping on about: “Wouldn’t it be great to know what was going to happen? Wouldn’t it be great to have a plan? How can we run our business without this kind of guidance from Government?” “I just don’t buy it, to be honest.”

He outlined how his company has produced its own strategy that will factor in a likely reduction in support post-Brexit.

“We will have to make some changes but our strategy is: We want ‘X’ amount of land by a certain time in certain areas, we want to be a force for good in agriculture and we want ‘X’ return on capital and ‘X’ uplift in land value. It’s not that complicated.”

Innovation

The theme of the day was very much innovation and delegates also heard a detailed summary of research findings from an EU-wide project about the most effective and cost-effective ways to reduce antibiotic usage on pig farms.

There were dedicated break-out sessions on the ‘Sow of the Future’, including a look at the latest technology and also the barriers associated with freedom farrowing, and on ‘Meat of the Future’, including the issues around boar taint.

Further sessions included talks on the latest technology available for ‘monitoring and utilising real time growth and FCR data’ and the issues around ‘designing a handling system outdoors’.

  • For full coverage of the event, staged by Pig World and AHDB Pork, look out for the July edition of Pig World.

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About The Author

Editor of Pig World and contributor to LBM’s other farming publications. Also National Pig Association webmaster. Formerly political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years. Enjoy a bit of media punditry. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm. Work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Under-9 football coach and big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.