December 2013 – Proud of our industry’s talent and achievements

I wanted to begin my column this month by congratulating South-west vet Pete Bown on being chosen as this year’s David Black Award winner, and Tony Wright, of Shedden Farms in North Yorkshire, our new Trainee of the Year winner.

I attended both events and was touched by the emotion displayed by both men. It really does make me feel so very proud to be part of an industry that can boast such talent, and which celebrates its achievements in such style – at the Palace of Westminster, no less.

In recent weeks, the NPA has been presenting its arguments in favour of honest country of origin labelling and its opposition to the reintroduction of swill feeding. That meant two more visits to the House of Commons. The NPA and The Pig Idea were among those that took part on a Parliamentary panel for agroecology that debated ‘food waste and pig feed’.

We found out about this event by chance and were shocked that only one side of the argument was going to be presented. No one had thought to ask us for our views, even though we would be the people who would (supposedly) be using the swill so enthusiastically championed by The Pig Idea.

After much hectoring by the NPA, I was given a place on the panel that included Tristram Stuart and Thomasina Miers from The Pig Idea; Philip Lymbery of Compassion in World Farming; Peter Jones, a director of food waste specialist Ecolateral; Anna Price, a pedigree pig producer in favour of feeding waste food to pigs; and Simon Fairlie, author of Meat: A Benign Extravagance.

A number of pig industry representatives coherently helped outline the NPA position that swill feeding is too great a risk to pig health and that the industry wasn’t convinced it could be safely reintroduced. But after a lively debate, it was agreed that there was sufficient common ground between The Pig Idea campaign and the pig industry to move forward on food waste. However, we remain opposed to the reintroduction of swill feeding.

Consequently, we’re now investigating how much more, on top of the 1.23 million tonnes of co- and by-products we already feed in the pig industry (43.9% of total pig feed) we can safely utilise. We estimate that out of the 15 million tonnes of food/drink waste produced each year, 3.2 million tonnes (21.33%) from manufacturing could be fed to pigs providing the correct controls via FEMAS were put in place. This is the sort of food we are already using, of course.

Country of origin labelling has taken a surprising turn since I last updated members at our regional meetings. The European Commission (EC) is still proposing product labels should carry ‘reared in’ and ‘slaughtered in’, but has now changed its mind over the minimum period to qualify for ‘reared in’ status. It may now agree six months, which is a great improvement on the two months it proposed originally. If we can’t get ‘born, reared and slaughtered’ then this is a pretty good compromise.

The EC is also suggesting that the term ‘origin’ will mean ‘born, reared and slaughtered’, and will therefore be able to carry the flag of the specific country. But before we get too excited, this has all got to be agreed via a vote at the end of this month, so we’ll be working with Defra to make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. Watch this space.

To finish I’d just like to wish you all a happy Christmas and a very prosperous New Year (fingers crossed)!

> The NPA’s regions manager Lizzie Press is standing in as general manager during Zoë Davies’ maternity leave

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