Leading pork processor and producer Pilgrim’s UK has announced a new structure for its agricultural operations, following a second high-profile departure in recent weeks.
Mark Haighton, pig supply chain director, is set to follow former UK agricultural director Barney Kay out of the door, in what is understood to have been a sudden development.
Helen Webb, previously technical director – agriculture, will take up the new role of technical and customer director – agriculture, with immediate effect, working closely with customers to lead on agriculture strategy. She has more than 20 years’ experience within the company, leading on pig production and research and specialising in nutrition and feed procurement.
Fábio Brancher, who recently replaced Mr Kay in the new role of operations director – agriculture, said: “The challenges of the UK and global pig industry have been well-documented, and as the UK’s number one producer of higher welfare pigs and a leading pork processor, we recognise the need to become even more focused on working in partnership and collaboration with our key customers, maintaining effective and efficient pig supply, and outstanding overall leadership.”
In a further change, livestock logistics manager Rob Ayton-Norfolk has been promoted to the new role of head of procurement and logistics, which will take in his current duties of overseeing the transport of animals from farms to factories, with added responsibility for pig procurement and planning.
The company thanked Mr Haighton for his contribution to the business to date.
Mr Haighton has worked in the UK pig processing sector since 1998 when he started at the Geo Adams & Sons abattoir in Spalding, initially as a livestock buyer before the company was bought out by Tulip and subsequently Pilgrim’s Pride. He is a member of AHDB’s Pork Sector Council and has also sat on the Red Tractor Pig Sector board.
The departures of Mr Haighton and Mr Kay, both well-known within the pig sector, continue the changes within the company since the appointment of Ivan Siqueira as president of Pilgrim’s UK in January 2022, succeeding Andrew Cracknell, who led the business for more than three years
Brazilian-owned food giant Pilgrim’s Pride moved into the UK pork sector when it purchased Tulip in August 2019. The business was rebranded to Pilgrim’s UK, which employs more than 5,500 people across 14 sites, and describes itself a leading producer of higher welfare pork globally, supporting more than 1,000 British farmers.
In November 2022, Pilgrim’s confirmed the decision to close its Bury St Edmunds and Coalville manufacturing sites, in a phased process while the transfer of products to alternative Pilgrim’s sites takes place.
The move came after the company’s latest Annual Report and Accounts revealed it recorded an operating loss of £16 million in 2021, on the back of the challenges facing the pig sector.