Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mike King as guilty as all consumers for sow crates in pork industry and should share in responsibility

It was hard core stuff on Sunday tonight. Mike King, a former advocate for New Zealand pork and mouthpiece for industry ads has jumped ship and attacked farmers for the use of sow stalls. Emotive footage and unbalanced reporting followed and not one pork farmer who uses the stalls was allowed to give a reason as to why the practice occurs.

In her agricultural journalism career Farmgirl has followed intensely the plight of the nation's pig farmers and has some sympathy for their situation. To portray the farmers as the common enemy is an injustice that ignorant mouthpieces like King would never understand.

If he did his background research he might understand that he and every other consumer of bacon or pork in this country are just as culpable for sow crate farming as the farmer themselves.

Farmgirl would like to know if these 'het up' consumers check their overseas pork that has flooded our supermarkets. If they did they might realise that the bacon they purchase is also farmed in the same way - through crates. If you ban them in New Zealand you have to ban all imports from overseas - a situation most pig farmers in NZ would rejoice about.

Let's get one thing straight right now - pig farmers don't like the practice, they want to change but there is no economically viable way forward for them to do so as long as cheap imported pork continues to flood in.

There will be a huge public outcry over the footage shot on Sunday, but Farmgirl wonders how many will change their spending habits and instead buy free range NZ pork to support the industry. If everyone did change the pork farmers would have the support to do the same.

Farmgirl is sick and tired of celebrities jumping on the bandwagon of something they do not really understand, and something they themselves have forced farmers to do. And it's laughable that King says he didn't know this was going on when he signed his contract with the Pork Board - what rot - this issue has been around for a long time.

The pleasing aspects to the situation is that most pig farmers are trying to break free of the system - and Farmgirl has seen some stunning results in the form of Eco Sheds etc, but it takes cashflow. If King and his cronies are so upset why don't they get on the box and encourage people to buy the more expensive option as Jamie Oliver did successfully with his recent chicken campaign.

Unlike King, Jamie took the time to explain why farmers do what they do and put much of the onus back on consumers.


Thomas Beagle said...

If farmers don't like it so much, why aren't they getting together and campaigning against it?

"Don't buy foreign pork-in-abox, buy our locally produced cruelty-free non-crate pork!"

They might even be able to charge a premium for it and make higher profits.

Maybe the consumers are ignorant - but their ignorance doesn't excuse the people who do know what they're doing from improving their methods.

Mike King is probably doing the local pork farmers a favour by exposing their cruel practices and starting the consumer shift to a kinder method of farming pigs.

Anonymous said...

Thank You for your informed comments, my family produces 150 pigs a week in a system that does not use sow stalls. We have our sows in groups inside, this method requires a very high standard of stockmanship as sows can be very aggressive. The main problem with other producers ability to change is as you say, the price we receive for pork as 95 per cent of consumers buy on price, which means we have to produce as cheap as possible to compete with the 800,000 kg a week that is imported.

Grantavius Kennarius said...

Trichinosis really screws up your meal. Free-range means that pigs interact with rats, possums and other animals which can carry transmittable diseases, as well as make contact with pathogenic rich moist soil.

It may be that I com from Africa, but I am paranoid about eating disease free meat; the Jamie Oliver route seems the best way to go.

Inventory2 said...

Excellent post Farmgirl - thank you for providing some balance on this issue. It's a shame that the state broadcaster could not have done likewise.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Farmgirl, well said.

Just have to point out, without country of origin labelling laws in NZ it is almost impossible for Kiwi consumers to confidently buy NZ grown bacon or ham.

We import a huge amount of processed pork product (not fresh, yet), and the Pork Industry does a lot of work to promote its voluntary "100% NZ" label. But that label can be very hard to find in supermarkets and delis. Shoppers need to ASK the deli manager 'is this NZ grown?' and if they don't know, put it back. Vote with your wallet.

If it doesn't say 'Product of New Zealand' then it could be from anywhere.

If the supermarket can't sell the cheap imported stuff, then they might start paying local producers decent money so they can improve their production methods.


backin15 said...

Farmgirl, thanks for pointing out some of the constraints on farmers. It's very useful to know the economics of the industry. I try to buy free-range pork products because I've learned a little about the industry and I agree with the comment up-thread, that perhaps Mike King's done the industry a real service by giving them a platform to push for labeling changes and industry differentiation.

StephenR said...

Farmgirl wonders how many will change their spending habits and instead buy free range NZ pork to support the industry. If only it were as easy as going to the supermarket and buying free range pork. I live in the suburbs of Auckland and I have to make a separate trip to the organics store when I want some pork. Hmph.

Bacon on the other hand - 'Freedom Farms' seems to have a presence in most supermarkets.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nadine,
I know this is off topic but I dont have ya email address.

have you heard of the hash fonterra have made with their revamped fencepost website?

They have decided in their wisdom to limit access to suppliers only plus any staff the suppliers permit to access the site.

So 4 weeks out from the start of the new season they have cut off the principal medium for farm employees to find work.

Also many farm owners/sharemilkers are advertising for workers on the new website but no potential workers are able to look for work on the website.

Its absolutely nuts - we are sharemilkers and have been looking for staff.

sasa said...