Pork producers in South Africa are forging ahead with innovation and optimism in uncertain times. The industry has changed drastically over the last few decades – with dietary concerns, disease outbreaks, climate change and other factors all playing a role. Brent Fairlie, CEO at one of South Africa’s largest pork producers, Lynca Meats, lets us in on why, in a country where chicken has always been a firm favourite, pork is poised to make a strong comeback.
South Africa’s pork industry is relatively large, contributing around 2.15% to the local agricultural sector as a whole but accounting for only 7% of the country’s total meat consumption. However, recent trends indicate that there is plenty of room for expansion, and South African producers are leading the way.
“The pork industry has had a disruptive few years,” explains Fairlie. “The Listeriosis crisis had a major impact on consumer confidence, then only a year later we were hit with an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, followed soon after by COVID-19. These three events effectively caused periodic significant reductions in the pork price, which all role players in the industry (farmers, abattoirs, retailers etc) passed on to the end consumer resulting in a long-term increase in the demand for pork. It is the only protein on the market today that is as affordable as it was four to five years ago”.
The lower prices have opened the door for chicken-wary consumers to expand their horizons and enjoy pork’s famous versatility and flavour. In the midst of yet another economic downturn, pork’s better price is making it attractive in cash-strapped communities. And that’s just the beginning of the pork revolution.
Health and dietary trends
People’s understanding of nutrition is far beyond what it was just a couple of decades ago, a time where “all fat is bad, and all pork is fatty” was a common belief. Today, however, pork is taking centre stage as a protein that fits as easily as any other into a healthy and balanced lifestyle. 2Pork is rich in vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, potassium, iron and zinc. A palm-sized, 85g portion also gives you 22g of high-quality protein. The leanest cut (pork fillet or tenderloin), is as lean as skinless chicken breast, making it a great choice for the health conscious.
Ethical and Environmental Considerations
“With regards to the health of their families and their impact on the environment, consumers are understandably taking a much closer look at their choices in the supermarket,” said Fairlie. “Litre for litre, raising pigs is significantly less water intensive than raising cows, making it a more environmentally friendly option than beef. Many people might be surprised to hear that South African farms are also world leaders in a more ethical way of treating their animals, moving away from high-volume factory farming toward more humane methods”.
“South Africans consume about ten times as much chicken as pork, and now that the price per kilogram is more and more similar, we expect many more people to experiment with pork in their everyday cooking and for it to enjoy an even bigger spot on the braai in the future”.
After months of lockdown, millions of South Africans are more at home and are spending more time in the kitchen than ever before (and watching their household budgets more closely, too). There’s never been a better time to start experimenting with new flavours on a budget – add pork to your daily protein!