More than 150 delegates from across the UK and beyond descended on the Ron Cooke Hub at York University to network and hear the latest thinking on issues affecting the industry from JSR themselves, Lincolnshire farmer and Chair of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) John Godfrey, Swedish producer Erik Bengtsson, Ed Garner of Kantar Worldpanel and Adam Henson.
Chairman of JSR Tim Rymer gave his own view on the industry and how his business will respond to shifts in the marketplace and the introduction of new welfare directives in the New Year, as he made his opening address.
“I am confident about the future and although undoubtedly it will be a difficult 12 months, after the 1st of January we are expecting an increased demand for UK pork in 2013.
“In response to a new era of high feed costs we have made significant investments in our own business including £2 million in the Decoy Finishing Unit, as well as £500,000 in boar testing. This investment in technology will accelerate us towards our business goals.”
JSR’s Managing Director Dr Grant Walling and Head of Science Stephen Waite spoke to delegates about achieving optimum production efficiency and profitability using a high welfare system as the industry looks towards January the 1st 2013 and the implementation of the new EU pig welfare directive.
The presentation examined how JSR are focusing their research on key areas to identify the best systems and animals to improve productivity and profitability for the UK sector. For example, optimal pig flow and water availability can make a significant difference to peak productivity and using IMF scanners on process lines can also help gauge efficiency and improve herd management.
The company is also working with retailers on meat eating quality using the resources of the JSR Food Quality Centre. JSR have also carried out independent taste panel work with some of the main supermarket basic and premium brands which revealed some interesting results.
John Godfrey spoke about his experiences running a large-scale livestock and arable enterprise and his work with the AHDB developing skills within the sector, while Swedish farmer Erik Bengtsson gave delegates an insight into life on a Swedish farm famed for its high-quality lamb, beef and pork products. Erik explained the marketing principles he employs to keep his business profitable and how diversification has also helped his business succeed in the Swedish marketplace.
Research conducted by Kantar Worldpanel suggests that during the financial crisis, the expected rush to buy cheap food does not seem to have happened quite as analysts predicted, with shoppers still seeking out premium brands and shopping in higher-end stores. Ed Garner suggested that despite the economic climate, shoppers are looking for quality food and opting for products that offer a desirable or sustainable provenance and are seeing value in terms of quality rather than cost.
“In austere times, retailers were keen to see if there had indeed been a rush to buy cheaper products,” said Ed.
“However our research seems to suggest that consumers have begun to think about value in a different way – perhaps in terms of quality – and as more pressure is exerted on the household budget, shoppers are choosing premium products in larger volumes than anticipated. This of course presents an opportunity for producers of quality meat.”
Countryfile’s Adam Henson rounded off proceedings with a look at his life farming in the Cotswolds and how his television career has helped him market his own business.
Tim Rymer was delighted with the turnout and the calibre of the speakers.
He said: “These conferences give members of the industry the chance to get together to discuss the issues affecting the sector, as well as hear from experts on technological advancements, changes in legislation and consumer habits.
“This year the speakers were first class and the feedback we’ve received has been extremely encouraging. It’s certainly a challenging time for the industry but with opportunities, particularly for companies such as JSR who must lead the way in research and development. This was certainly borne out by the enthusiasm of both the speakers and the attendees.”