The concept of “Making Pork Fit for Farm and Fit for Fork” was the overriding theme of the 25th and final JSR farming conference which drew 150 delegates to York to hear both an “internal” production and efficiency message and to explore “external” global food and consumer opportunities.
JSR’s Director of Science and Technology, Dr Grant Walling, set the scene with the comment that some parts of the supply chain still need “convincing that eating quality is just as important as producing high-performing animals”.
While JSR remain focused on delivering high-performing animals to producers, therefore, and on helping the industry take full advantage of such genetic potential, the challenge to address issues surrounding eating quality must not be overlooked.
“We know that fat improves flavour, yet we have spent the past 25 years selecting against it,” JSR’s Meat Science Director, Caroline Mitchell, told delegates. “Understandably, the producer and processor are driven to improve and optimise the technological qualities of meat because they directly affect their profit margins. But low-cost changes can be made to improve eating experience.
“We are also seeing an unfortunate trend with premium pork products where, often, marketing messages focus on perceived ethical quality rather than eating quality. For example, they suggest that outdoor-bred animals are better than indoor, that rare breed is better than commercial breed – neither of which is true. However, if a product doesn’t taste good, the chance of repeat purchase is reduced. If we have no consumer base, we won’t have a need to produce a product.”
The guest speakers at York, carried an equally challenging message.
NFU President, Meurig Raymond, said that farmers shouldn’t be afraid to champion success and shout about the industry’s impressive growth. He also observed there was need, however, for farming to find a way to manage volatility and increase production, all at the same time.
Sainsbury’s Head of Technical for fresh foods, Beth Hart, commented that food sustainability issues had become global and highly complex, adding the positive news for producers that “our customers still trust Sainsbury’s, our farmers and our supply chain to do the right thing”.
The conference was also treated to a personalised and entertaining view of the industry by writer, broadcaster and food critic, Jay Rayner, who shared his belief that the idea of buying fresh, local, organic produce is simply a clever marketing ploy.
The conclusion reached by JSR Chairman, Tim Rymer, was that the 25th anniversary conference had delivered a fitting note on which to “bow out” of that particular form of event, although he did add: “We look forward to introducing some new events in the near future.”