Wednesday, 21 January 2009

In which the pig "farmer" gets a bit preachy - again

Listening to: Can't think what Don Revie would have made of this

Two more porkers are off to fulfil their destiny in the morning. The trailer is ready and as soon as it gets light they will be loaded up and taken down to the ferry.

After an hour-and-a-half we'll get off at Kirkwall and the five minute drive to the slaughterhouse where they should be "dealt with" swiftly and quietly - it'll be over before they have any idea what's happening.

That and most of the rest is out of my hands. The butcher picks up the carcasses which are hung for a few days and then cut, packed and shipped back to Westray. I'll collect the meat and deliver it to "my customers" who (bless 'em) are buying the stuff from me.

It hasn't been difficult to sell so far. These two are all accounted for, while all but one-and-a-quarter of the remaining three porkers is sold.

Some financial return would be more than welcome, but we're not quite ready to be sausage millionaires just yet.

I worked out a few weeks ago that each of the porkers will have eaten about £150-worth of feed in its lifetime. Add to that the cost of the ferry (£45 for me and the trailer so £22.50 per pig), the slaughterhouse fee (£32) and the butcher's - ahem - slice (£35-50) and there ain't much left for the "farmer". I also have to think about electricity to the sheds, water pump and fences, straw for bedding, not to mention the feed for the four female breeding pigs and all the start-up costs.

I'm charging £310 for a whole pig (bear in mind this is cut, packed and ready for the freezer), £160 for half and £85 for a quarter. At an optimistic estimate I reckon I'll have £80-90 in my pocket at the end of it which will be just enough to pay for next month's feed bill.

I don't mean to complain because few things in life have given me as much pleasure as working with the animals, but the reality is that there's precious little money in this pig "farming" lark unless people start to pay a realistic price for their meat.

The pork from my pigs is worth at least twice what I am charging for it and there's no chance that properly-reared meat will become the norm unless the farmer/crofter/"farmer" is given a chance to do his/her job without having to cut corners and resort to intensive methods or just treat it as a glorified hobby.

** Channel 4's food season offering tomorrow night should be interesting, focusing on the true cost of cheap food in the supermarkets. Next week Jamie Oliver (who I know a lot of people don't like, but he's welcome at our house for tea any day) is looking at the pork industry.

UPDATE: The morning ferry to Kirkwall was cancelled because of strong south-easterly winds, so we'll do the whole thing next week.


Anonymous said...

I bet he is! *guffaw*


(no, I don't know what I was alluding to either.)

fiwa said...

Yup, and the organic vegetable farmers are in the same boat. I try when I can to buy better meat - but sometimes it's tough.

I hope you get buyers for all.

Gin said...

This seems to be the plight of the small farmer. If you count all the labor you put in doing chores and probably don't make even that much. Have you thought of selling your pork on the hoof, so as not to have so many middle-men taking a bite?

elizabethm said...

I agree with you 100% and do try to make sure I buy less but better, local meat. And I like Jamie Oliver. He has considerable influence and uses it for sensible causes when he could just rake the money in. Your pork sounds amazing value, perhaps you should go into mail order!

Richard said...

The mail order thing's not a bad idea for getting your money bcak. You can always get away with slapping on a premium because people expect to pay more. Lot of work though.

susi said...

There is no one answer to this price of meat problem but
we have to keep making the point that top quality produce will always cost more than rubbish (most people seem to understand this except in the case of food - why?)

Seasonal vegetables, chickens and pork were once treats. Now factory farming and flying produce around the world make everything available all the time - and cheap.

So all we can do is offer people information on meat production
(Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall etc. do have useful roles here) and offer the choice of whether to buy from a small producer or from a factory farm.

Unfortunately, there is always the lurking accusation of "elitist meat" - the argument that "poorer" people can only afford the factory farmed stuff.

We buy our pork from a fellow smallholder. We are not well off but are happy to have a pork joint probably every four or five weeks
and ration out the chops so they last. This does not make us feel either "elitist" (we pay more) or "poor" (we limit consumption).

It's an education issue - people who buy factory farmed meat and clothes produced in "sweatshops" because they are cheaper could become as obsolete as people who
thought slavery was a good idea (could take time, though).

zIggI said...

I'd love to buy some Malc but it's a long way to come!

Timorous Beastie said...

I absolutely support what you're doing too and would love to buy some, but I'm in Japan. That and I don't actually like pork much....but the principle stands. I think a lot of middle class people can actually afford to pay a fair price for ethically produced meat, but they are a bit spoiled by the availability of cheap stuff over the last 20 years or so, and don't want to admit it. The recession is the perfect excuse for losing abandoning one's morals.