by BETTER FARMING STAFF
If you want to create a niche for pork products, be prepared for a lot of hard work and some stiff competition, says an Iowa industry expert.
The work might be hard, but the future could be promising, notes Gary Huber, on hand to discuss niche pork production at the London Swine Conference on Thursday. Huber, a program specialist with the Practical Farmers of Iowa, coordinates the state’s pork niche market working group. He also manages the Iowa Food Cooperative, an online farmers’ market.
He says key attributes for success in niche pork marketing include:
• Ensuring a good-tasting product;
• Refraining from administering antibiotics;
• Addressing animal welfare issues by introducing initiatives such as raising animals in pens and not docking tails;
• Conducting environmental stewardship;
• Building a story of the brand;
• Obtaining third-party certification; and
• Introducing traceability initiatives.
The more of these attributes a producer can add to the operation, the larger the market share you can get, he advises.
Niche marketers face plenty of hurdles. They must ensure that they can sell 70 to 80 per cent of a carcass as unique, determine a price that can make money, work out the logistics of transporting livestock to processors and product to markets, and find staff willing to do that work. “Take away the crates and antibiotics and try to farrow in winter and you've got issues,” he notes.
Holding on to your market once the niche is established can be a challenge too, especially if larger companies decide to compete. Huber points to White Marble Farms, a brand promoted by North American food service giant, Sysco Corporation. On its website, Sysco bills the brand as being “carefully sourced” from suppliers to meet the company’s quality, animal welfare and safe handling practices guidelines. Cargill supplies the pork, Huber says.
Those looking to develop a niche market therefore have to think of what they can do a little differently to make it more difficult for the Syscos and Cargills of the world to compete, he says. BF