More than 40 industry leaders, representing in excess of 2.8 million sows, gathered at the world-famous Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Alltech Elite Herd dinner to discuss challenges facing the global pork industry and debate how to move forward.
Matthew Smith, Alltech Asia-Pacific vice president, opened with a reference to forecasts that poultry consumption will overtake pork by 2020 (OD Consulting, 2015). “Chicken consumption is growing, in large part due to efficient broiler performance, consistency in appearance, texture and taste and no religious restrictions,” Smith said.
Chicken producers have been leading the way in innovation and flexibility in the number of consumer products on the market. “There have been more new products created with chicken meat than all other meat sources combined,” he said.
Terry Coffey, chief science and technology officer, Smithfield, discussed the challenges of being the world’s largest swine producer, especially in regard to the sheer size of business. He stressed Smithfield’s focus on driving production efficiency across their brands. “Part of our challenge in producing pork with enhanced attributes is what to do with the lesser-value cuts that are not as desirable," Coffey said.
Coffey also referred to the fact that Smithfield has some organic farms where inputs are fully traceable. He said that this forms a very small part of their business and demand for these products has not grown in recent years.
The importance of provenance (where food is grown) was discussed in a debate about locally-sourced products. Brian Luxford, general manager of the research and innovation group, Rivalea, emphasized that due to restrictions limiting the importation of genetics in Australia, improvements in production efficiency must be made elsewhere. He stressed his belief that companies must promote the idea of buying local and ensuring consumers know the origin of their pork products.
Mark Field, head of product technology, Coles, illustrated that when making a purchase, the consumer will look at a range of factors, such as value, marketing, provenance, innovation and convenience. “We remain focused on listening to the needs of the customer and delivering products they can trust,” Field said
Summarizing the night’s debate, Aidan Connolly, Alltech chief innovation officer, said, “The pig business is global. While we once looked at local prices and only pork proteins, we’re now globally interconnected. Prices go up and down together.”
At a separate Alltech breakfast at APSA, Connolly addressed an audience of more than 60 executives from countries across Asia, discussing the trend to move away from antibiotics in production. “Around 46 countries now have restrictions on the use of antimicrobials, particularly as growth promoters,” he said. Using examples of iconic global brands such as McDonald’s, Walmart and Subway, he stressed that change will not come necessarily from legislation alone. “Governments are pushing the food industry in new directions, but the majority of change will come from companies themselves,” said Connolly.
Connolly highlighted trends in the global swine industry towards antibiotic-free production and Alltech’s leading role in this area. He spoke about the Alltech Antibiotic-Free program, which includes almost four decades of research, practical applications and technical experts, providing a holistic approach to help producers address the challenges that can occur in antibiotic-free production. He spoke of very large sow units in the U.S. and other countries that have removed antibiotic growth promoters and are using Alltech’s program, emphasizing that these companies now have lower mortality and are consistent leaders in feed conversion.
Connolly also shared his experience with an application of the Alltech Antibiotic-Free program, the “seed, feed and weed” approach: seeding the gut with favorable microflora, utilizing nutritional technologies in feed that maintain optimum pH, water balance and support gut microbial population, and weeding out challenges in order to maintain gut health and integrity to support overall performance.