Simon Grey, General Manager of Genesus Europe
There are officially 44 counties that are in Europe, 27 of these are in the EU. Each country is individual with its own market requirements. The comments in this report are general.
Across Europe we are seeing record high pig prices and a declining pig herd. Its impossible to know exact numbers, but most indicators are there were about 6% to 7% less total pigs in Europe at the end of 2022 (134.3 million) than the average from 2017 to 2020 (about 143 million).
Pig population in Europe
2017 145.5 million
2018 143.5 million
2019 143.1 million
2020 145.9 million
2021 141.6 million
2022 134.3 million
Data from Statista suggests pig meat consumption in Europe will fall by 7.2% by 2031 vs a decline in meat consumption of 2.8%. So, what is going wrong for the pig industry in Europe. And can anything be done to stop the decline.
Pig farmers in the European region are the most heavily legislated in the world for both environmental and animal welfare reasons. Regardless of this being wright or wrong or good or bad, the fact is it increases production cost. This extra cost and the cost of modifying farms is putting some farmers out of business. Every country that has ever done “high welfare” has lost about 50% of its pig production! This legislation is also increasing the price of pig meat in the shops for consumers!
There is another issue here that European politicians seem to want to ignore. The systems that have the lowest impact on the environment are the most intensive! For the most sustainable pig production we need “High stocking density, a high degree of mechanisation, low labour requirement and efficient use of feed.” This is the exact opposite of what animal welfare legislation is doing with its demands for more extensive systems, more space, bedding etc….
Do we want the highest level of perceived animal welfare or farms with the lowest carbon footprint. We can’t have both!
The current loss of production has been accelerated by the increased cost of grain as a result of Russia invading Ukraine in 2022. Despite record high pig prices for much of 2022 producers across Europe have been losing money due to very high feed prices.
Parts of Europe have of course been suffering with ASF. This puts restrictions on movement of meat from infected areas, which impacts on sales price in that particular area.
However currently we are seeing higher levels of disease and death due to normal production diseases like PRRS. This is in part, as a result of legislation severely restricting the use of some products like zinc oxide in piglet feeds (from 3000 ppm to 150ppm) and continued pressure on the reduced use of antibiotics. This has resulted in higher levels of mortality that are 3% to 4% above where it was across nursery and finisher farms in parts of Europe.
Zinc was removed due to “potential risks to the environment”. Clearly the legislators did not take into account the actual welfare impact this has on pigs (more sick and dying) and the ACTUAL IMPACT on the environment of dead pigs who have consumed feed etc and need to be disposed of in incinerators!
Here there are some very interesting facts! First look at this table from OurWorldInData.org
Take careful note of the greenhouse emissions from pigs vs Coffee and Chocolate – which are both 3 time higher per kg than pork! We are told one of the reasons meat consumption is falling is because of its environmental impact.
Pork consumption is expected to fall by 7.2% in Europe by 2032. Europe consumes about 18% of pork in the world. By comparison Europe is the largest importer and consumer of Coffee (32%) and Chocolate (36%) in the world. Average Chocolate consumption in the world is 0.9kg per person. In Europe its 5kg and in Germany (the country most actively legislation against pig production currently) its 11kg… Chocolate consumption is expected to increase by 4.79% by 2027 and Coffee consumption is increasing at 2.77% per year currently.
So the same Europeans that want to eat less pork because of its impact on the environment are the same ones that want to eat and drink more and more of a products that have 3 times more impact. Sort of rules out the environmental argument.
Why do people want more and more Chocolate and Coffee? IT TASTES GOOD!!
More numbers from the top of this report. In Europe by 2032 Pork consumption is expected to reduce by 7.2% vs total meat consumption by 2.8%. If you do the maths of this it means that most of the total reduction in meat consumption will be pork!
These figures are predictions, but tally with what has been happening in general with pork consumption in Europe. Whilst total consumption has been increasing, pork has at the very best been static.
Why do people choose to eat one product over another. Number one reason is IT TASTES BETTER!
We can’t control how governments legislate, we can’t control global grain and pigmeat prices. We can however control how the pork we produce TASTES. We know that BETTER TASTING product drives demand.
Genesus Jersey Red Duroc is well known as the global leader when it comes to high marbled tasty pork. This in combination with Genesus F1 gives a consistent highly marbled product that is driving demand in many markets around the world. This demand is also driving higher prices.
People eat more chocolate and drink more coffee, why would they not eat more pork if it was TASTY!