Blythburgh Free-Range Pork wins first Good Pig Welfare Award

A leading East Anglian free-range pork producer has won the first Good Pig Award.

Blythburgh Free Range Pork has been recognised by Compassion in World Farming at its annual awards for its commitment to farm animal welfare.

Former pig farmer of the year Jimmy Butler, who runs 2,000 outdoor sows at Blythburgh, between Halesworth and Southwold, was delighted with the latest success.

However, he warned of a looming shortage of pork and bacon by the middle of next year as pig farmers struggle to stay in business. 'Within nine months pork and bacon will be in very short supply,' said Mr Butler, as the industry had seen dramatic increases in feed costs.

'This is a global problem and producers in the United States have been making very large reductions in pig numbers,' he added.

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Although costs of key ingredients including soya have eased very slightly, producers at home and abroad were still losing money on every finished pig. He said that sows were being culled but it took at least nine months to turn off the production tap, said Mr Butler.

As a specialist pork producer of Blythburgh Free Range Pork, customers have helped to shoulder some of the rapid rise in feed costs, said his elder son, Alastair.

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'We've been able to maintain our production and we're selling everything with a free-range premium at the moment. Our big problem is that we have to be aware of the overall pig price. It has not been easy because there's a gap between our pork and standard pork.

'Fingers crossed and touching wood, we're still selling 800 free range pigs a week and realising that premium for them,' said Alastair. 'As a business, we're in a stronger position. We've have not been able to fully compensate our higher costs but have been able to cover a bit of it.

'Where supermarkets have not been supporting the British pig farmer, our supply chain has supported us.

'They've understood that we've got rising costs and they've accepted some price increases and they're working with us to tell their customers too.'

With many producers losing between �15 and �20 on a finished pig, Mr Butler said that the producers were extremely worried about the future direction of feed costs.

While the dairy industry had been pushed to the brink, the pig and poultry sector was racking up significant losses, he added.

Blythburgh Free Range, which was launched by Mr Butler in 2000, has seen a significant expansion as it moved away from supplying the supermarkets to work with specialist butchers and caterers.

All the sows and piglets are finished on a free-range system.

Hosted by chef Valentine Warner in London, the sixth Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards, recognise and award food companies that are committed to implementing substantial policy changes that result in positive impacts for farm animals.

There were more than 50 awards in categories including poultry and dairy.

CWF estimates that more than 270 million farmed animals benefit each year from award winners' policies.

Alastair said: 'The Good Pig Award is the only award in the UK which recognizes the significant animal welfare benefits of extensive pig rearing systems such as free range pig production.

'This is the only award we've entered. We're really chuffed.'

'This is the first year Compassion have run the Good Pig Award and we are delighted to be amongst the very best in pig farming to be recognized for excellence in animal welfare.'

'In the coming months, pork will not be as freely available as it used to be. Pork will go through the roof – possibly not as much as beef and lamb already have.

There will be some significant price movement and people will just have to accept it. We're in a global economy, China is eating more pork and importing it.'

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