I don't normally get on my soap box and preach about politics, but recently whilst teaching a group of butchers and smallholders the subject of money came up for the price of pigs. The smallholders and producers were explaining that they were on my charcuterie course as a last lifeline to stay in pig production, for they were not able to sell their pigs for a price that met their production costs, so they were looking at charcuterie as a means of staying in business by adding value to their products.
We know the high street butcher is in direct competition with the supermarkets and it is he we would prefer to shop with, however is he prepared to pay the producer a fair price for a local traditional free range and possibly organic pig? It seems not! For one butcher in my class explained he currently pays £1.96 per kilo dead weight for a delivered commercially reared carcass to his premises from his local abattoir.
Explaining further he informed us that local producers sometimes go to him and ask him to purchase their locally free range pigs of which he agrees; except he is only willing to pay the same price as he does for his commercial pork, is that a fair price?
He also explained as the producer walked into his shop hoping to sell his pigs, the butcher felt he was in the best position to dictate the price and almost with some glee explaining he now has a better quality pig than he could normally buy and for a cheap price. Ok you could say that this is the hard facts about business, but where does that leave us?
The producer explains he can no longer breed and rear his traditional and sometimes rare breeds of pig and decides to go out of business and get himself a job in a factory or supermarket (then the breed faces possible extinction). Another producer decides selling to the butcher at a price less than he can produce is bad business and decides to become a butcher himself and to compete with the high street butcher (not good for the high street butcher).
Had the high street butcher paid a premium for the locally reared pig, he could then designate that high quality pig to charcuterie thus bringing a handsome profit to his business by selling to the customers who would have been shopping elsewhere (don't create your own competition).
I personally have for some years been paying £3.50 per kilo dead weight for my pork to use in my charcuterie projects as I know I can quite easily get a return of anything from £750 and upto a thousand pound from a 100 kg dead weight pig.
We need butchers to become charcutiers, there is a market for both the commercial and the locally reared pigs, don't put them in the same basket, if a pig producer is happy in the return he gets from pig carcass sales he is less likely to undergo training to become a butcher himself. If he does become a butcher I will guarantee it won't take him long to become a charcutier aswell.
In summary we need the supermarket, we also need the high street butcher and we definately need the producers including those that sell at source including at the farmers markets. A polite message to our high street butchers, "
Instead of taking a pound for your pocket today, think about investing a pound for tomorrow, for you never know it may just pay you back when you need it most and probally more!"
Excuse me whilst I step down from my soap box - Thank you (rant over).