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Conference urges focus on consumer
4:44pm Monday 30th September 2013 in Farming
THE 24th annual JSR Farming Conference attracted more than 150 delegates from across the industry.
A group of first-class speakers – including consumer marketing experts and scientists – along with shared research from key members of the JSR team, was presented at the Ron Cooke Hub at York University.
The theme of Applying Science to Develop Practical Solutions looked at ways in which producers and business owners can innovate in the quest for more profitable pork production.
Dr Grant Walling, conference chairman and JSR’s director of science and technology, gave a summary of issues that have affected the industry over the past 12 months – namely “horsegate”
and the first lab-reared piece of meat, which was a remarkable scientific achievement but failed to inspire on taste tests.
Reminding the audience of JSR’s dual focus of “fit for farm, fit for fork” he said: “The consumer is the most important person in any supply chain and the horsemeat scandal shows that some parts of the industry have lost that vital connection with them.
“Too often, time is spent looking to squeeze an extra few pence out of the processor, and this can lead to breakdowns in the complex chain, which then leads to an erosion of trust, as with the horsemeat scandal.”
Stephen Waite, JSR head of technology transfer, and Angus Chambers, feeding herd manager, together demonstrated the progress JSR is making genetically and commercially across the whole of the business.
Mr Waite said: “It is important to be an early adopter of innovation rather than being a part of the late majority – if you are not innovating in this industry, you are essentially not progressing.
In some areas, this industry has been laggards for far too long.”
With many pig producers struggling to fund the conversion of old farm buildings into modern facilities, he explained how this was hampering the finishing efficiency of UK pig production.
“A mismatch of building types and feeding systems has historically meant that accurate data-recording has been a difficult task at JSR,”
he said. “But with input from nutritionists and vets, as well as the drive and determination of the JSR team, productivity and efficiency is ever increasing.”
Prof Nicola Spence, chief executive, Science City York, said challenges such as those brought about by a growing population would inevitably mean increased demand for food, land, energy and other resources.
She said businesses must adapt and utilise the innovative people and ideas within their organisations.
Hennie Smeenk, a Dutch pig farmer, gave an insight into European pig production, and shared the story of how his family farm grew and evolved into a modern pig production unit.
Expanding from only 15 pigs, he now houses 1,000 sows and has entered into a partnership with Dutch company, De Heus, carrying out feed trials and offering international visits around his unit.
Ed Garner, of Kantar Worldpanel, showed how pressure on household budgets saw foreign supermarket chains, such as Aldi and Lidl, profit from consumers who were feeling the pinch.
Not surprisingly, following the horsemeat scandal, buying habits changed with consumers seeking traceable, certified meat products.
However, months on, these trends have slowly reverted back.
Jim Brisby, of Cranswick Plc, said the UK needed to differentiate and compete in new ways to produce successful products. Emphasis was placed on the need for transparent, sustainable supply chains that give the consumer confidence and encouraged stable buying habits.
He gave information on consumption trends and coping strategies and said the need for food security was imperative to avoid supply chain failures in the future.
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