Market changes make pig processing less viable

South Kill owner Rex Spence says the lapse of pig offal collection in the south means he is bringing 50 years of pig processing to a close. Photo: Richard Davison
South Kill owner Rex Spence says the lapse of pig offal collection in the south means he is bringing 50 years of pig processing to a close. Photo: Richard Davison
Small-scale southern slaughterhouses and farm kill businesses are facing a curly decision on pig processing, following a recent market-driven change.

Sole Southern pig offal collector Keep It Clean, headquartered in Dunedin but covering Christchurch south, told customers recently it would no longer be able to collect the byproduct, because it had become ''commercially unviable''.

A spokesman for Keep It Clean owner, Wallace Group Ltd Partnership, said ''lower international commodity prices'' had led to the change in policy, driven by underlying regulatory changes in key markets.

''More stringent requirements from customers in Muslim countries, who won't accept protein meal processed from sources that also handle pig offal, [have] left pig offal commercially unviable to process.''

That has left practitioners like Rex Spence, of South Kill, Milton, facing the prospect of leaving the pig processing business altogether.

Mr Spence said he was ''gutted'' to have to make that decision, but economics meant he could no longer afford to slaughter pigs at his boutique abattoir.

The change would bring to an end 50 years of pig processing for Mr Spence (74), since he set out doing farm kill in Kaitangata in 1969.

''We've averaged probably seven or eight hundred pigs a year, dropping off a bit now I'm semi-retired. It's about a third of my turnover, so pretty significant.''

South Kill would continue to process sheep, but pigs had been a ''way of life'' for him and his family, he said.

''We brought our kids up and bought our house on it. They'd help slice the bacon and so on. When you've done it for so many years you feel something's been cut out from under you.''

He said practitioners would now have to dispose of pig offal through costly landfill processing, or in offal pits if slaughtering on farm, where offal was required to be retained.

''I just feel for my lifestyle customers, who fatten a single pig and use it to feed the family.''

Milton butcher Tiny Agnew, who co-operates with Mr Spence in processing his customer's pig carcasses, and also runs his own farm kill operation, said the lapse in offal collection would cause problems for all Southern practitioners.

''We understand Keep It Clean's decision, but locally we'll take a revenue hit due to South Kill's step back, as we don't do pig slaughter ourselves.

''There'll also be a few of the bigger operations down south with hard decisions to make. When reality hits there'll be a bit of a panic, I think.''

He believed increased processing costs would ultimately fall on the consumer.

''We'll have to see how it plays out.''

Wallace Group's spokesman said the change could require the attention of local government.

''It's unfortunate, but as well as increased charges for consumers, disposal could become a problem for the environment. I suspect councils will need to take a look at landfill provision moving forward.''

richard.davison@odt.co.nz