Beyond the Barn

Are hog prices worth stealing for?

Hogs are traditionally cheapest in the fall. Still, prices were good enough that a theft ring hit hog farms in Iowa and Minnesota then. About 1,000 market ready animals were taken, according to Feedstuffs magazine. The hogs would have brought thieves US$180-190 each, up from $130-140 during the downturn.

Minnesota Public Radio News said two major thefts of 600 market-ready pigs, about five semi-truck loads, were taken from Kandiyohi County, Minnesota in late August. A KIMT TV report said 157 smaller pigs, worth about $80 each, were taken from a farm in Mitchell County, Iowa.

Goodbye cottage industry, hello industrial farms

Vietnam plans to modernize its livestock breeding sector, shifting to industrial farms from household-based breeding, according to Vietnam News.

The Vietnam Livestock Development Strategy aims to increase pig numbers to 35 million in 2020 from 27.37 million last year. The centrally-based economy will offer preferential policies to encourage individuals and corporations to develop livestock production and shift to industrial farms along with slaughterhouses and meat processing factories.

It also planned to increase industrial livestock feed production to 16.3 million tonnes by 2015 and 19.2 million tonnes by 2020, up from 10.5 million in 2010. The quality of pork meat is also expected to increase.

Smithfield sow numbers down, but still huge

Sow numbers for Smithfield Foods were down in 2011, but down is relative to the biggest pork producer in the United States.

According to Successful Farming, Smithfield farrowed 837,951 sows in the United States in 2011 – nearly 40,000 fewer than in 2010 – and planned to cut another 30,000 sows. Smithfield farrows more sows than the next three largest competitors combined – Missouri-based Triumph Foods with 377,000 sows, Kansas’ Seaboard Foods with 213,600 sows and The Maschhoffs of Illinois with 192,000 sows.

Production held steady for 12 of the 25 top producers in the United States. Most of the gain of 83,878 sows among the top 25 in 2011 compared to 2010 was because of acquisitions. Maschhoffs bought Nebraska Pork Partners and 55,000 sows.

Danish Crown wants to sell shares

Smithfield Foods is well known as the world’s largest pork producer. But the world’s largest pork exporter isn’t on this continent.

Danish Crown, 124 years old and co-operatively owned by 9,800 farmers, slaughtered 19.4 million hogs in 2009/2010 in Denmark, Britain, Sweden and Poland. It sells to 130 different countries with annual revenue of C$8.44 billion and its largest export market is the United States. It wants to raise C$1 billion in development capital and it won’t come from cash-strapped farmers. So “going public” by selling stock on an exchange is being considered. The goal, according to board chairman Niels Mikkelsen, is to become one of the three largest food companies in Europe.

Pork products make fast-food comeback

This column has long been extolling North America’s homage to bacon. Now a cultural icon from another meat commodity admits it as well. In October, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), which bills itself as “the world’s most popular chicken restaurant chain,” announced it was adding bacon to flavour some of its “bowls,” a meal on the fly containing mashed potatoes, “popcorn” chicken, gravy, cheese and kernel corn.

CFIA slow off the mark

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) watched for a long time before it took Transport Eugène Nadeau Inc. to court for abusing animals it trucked and violating the Health of Animals Regulations. The Sainte-Marguerite, Que. company pleaded guilty in January of this year to seven counts of breaking those regulations between May 9, 2007 and Oct. 23, 2008. The offenses occurred in Rivière du Loup, Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, Vallée-Jonction and Sainte-Hélène-de-Bagot.

‘This program is no ASRA’

Kevin Grier, a senior analyst at the George Morris Centre, says the new Business Risk Management program is a poor substitute for Ontario’s dream of a support program like Quebec has in Assurance stabilisation des revenus agricoles (ASRA). It’s not even “ASRA-lite.”

“Ontario farm organizations have spread lavish praise over the program. They have a stake in making it look as good as possible, given the time and effort they put lobbying for it,” Grier wrote in the July 15 issue of Canadian Pork Market Review.

“Unlike a real insurance program, however, Premiums are waived for the program’s 2011 transition year. Even better, there is going to be a payout to livestock producers this fall, just in time for the provincial election.

It’s the pork, stupid!

Forget the cost of gas, housing, most food and wages. China has a simple index of its inflation. It is based on the price of pork, which is rocketing upward. That has the attention of the world’s most populous country’s top leader, Premier Wen Jiabao.

According to a government of China press release issued in the summer, Wen said “the government holds the unavoidable responsibility of stabilizing pork prices.” He urged relevant authorities to announce policies as soon as possible to encourage more pigs to be bred and stabilize the pork market.

Price increases are good for pig farmers, according to the Chinese government’s website, but increased urban residents’ living costs.