Consumer Focused Review of the Pork Supply Chain

Date: November 2008

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Pig meat production was valued at €290 (£198) million at farm gate in Republic of Ireland (ROI) in 2007. In Northern Ireland (NI) in 2006, pig meat was estimated to account for almost seven percent of gross turnover in the food and drinks processing sector at £190 (€280) million. Whilst researching for this report it emerged that comparable figures for the value of the pig meat industry on ROI and NI are not available.

This report showed that pig production on the IOI has changed from a small-scale enterprise carried out by a large number of mixed farmers to a modern industry comprised of a small number of specialist producers operating large-scale units. Most products for retailers are prepared and packed in specialised cutting and processing units which may or may not be integrated in the slaughter plant. For some pork products, various additives such as salt, herbs and flavour enhancers are added. Pork products are then stored and transported, frozen or chilled to wholesale, retail and catering facilities for ultimate sale to consumers.

Key findings

  • Pork food chain symbolsMore pork meat per capita is consumed on the island of Ireland than any other meats including poultry, beef and mutton/lamb. However, greater than 50 percent of pork meat is consumed is in a processed form.
  • Eighty-five percent of people on the island consume pork and pork products with consumers in Northern Ireland consuming slightly more than those in the Republic of Ireland.
  • In 2006 in Northern Ireland, pigmeat was estimated to account for almost seven percent of gross turnover in the food and drinks processing sector at £190 (€280) million.
  • In 2007 in the Republic of Ireland, pigmeat production was valued at €290 (£198) million at farm gate representing five percent of the grass agricultural output and making it the third more important sector in agriculture output after beef and milk.
  • All pork meat and pork products must be thoroughly cooked with no pink meat remaining.
  • The importance of an all-island approach to control schemes to minimise the incidence of Salmonella species in pigs is underlined by the fact that almost 40 percent of pigs slaughtered in Northern Ireland originate in the Republic of Ireland.
  • More than 50 percent of pork products eaten on the island of Ireland are processed varieties, for example sausages, bacon and ham.
  • On average pork meat has a lower total and saturated fat content than other red meats such as beef and lamb and is also a rich source of essential nutrients such as phosphorous, zinc, potassium, magnesium and the B vitamins.
  • In response to health concerns regarding salt levels in foods and more specifically a negative focus on processed meat products, the pork industry is moving to reduce the levels of salt in pork products by 2010.
  • Consumers are urged to make a gradual reduction in their intake of processed meats and introduce more lean, fresh cuts into their diet.