Yesterday I wrote about tipping points for individuals, businesses and communities. A tipping point is the moment of critical mass, a threshold, when something that was a matter of small changes often unrecognised suddenly increases in size and velocity.
The pig meat producers in the UK have reached just such a point. The pig herd has been slowly reducing to such a point where it has halved over the last twelve years. Two weeks ago it was reported in the Telegraph that the number of breeder sows going for slaughter had doubled to 7,000 a week, largely driven by higher feed prices. This will have a cascade effect as the current rate of reduction in the number of breeder sows will take at least 73,500 pigs out of the local food chain within a year. If it accelerates further as it might well do if the market does not see the "need" to sustain the product we will have an industry that simply disappears or is merely seen as a "niche" market.
When a car manufacturing company starts selling the production lines then the industry can only go one way especially if the return on future investment capital is not seen as sufficient. Do we want to view our UK food production as we view car manufacture - a remote, cold production line? Will just the food equivalent of Rolls Royce, Jaguar and Morgan cars be left?
We can of course see pig meat as a commodity and import it from Europe and further afield. Many treat food as they would a car, washing machine or new pair of jeans and there is nothing inherently unethical about that. After all many consumers don't have the financial choice. However those who have a choice can continue to buy based on price rather than value and close their minds to issues such as production methods, worker welfare, or environmental impact. I have written about this interaction of price versus value before and in the words of Warren Buffet "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." Pig meat was not and is not subsidised in the UK and as such is at the mercy of the domestic and global market so its future will be decided by everyone shopping in supermarkets this weekend and in the weekends to come.