By Matt Donald, pig and poultry farmer, north Yorkshire
Given all that is going on in the world, those of us who work on farms should step back and take a moment to remember how fortunate we are to have the ability to continue with some normality in our day to day routine. Although weeks and weekends blend together, we can still get outside and in the open air to work.
Supposedly to fill a temporary shortage, it is extremely concerning that European chicken and eggs have found their way on to our supermarket shelves lately. Given that it takes some adjustment for chicken on the wholesale side of the industry to move into retail, it is no surprise shelves emptied when they did, but large retailers seem to have forgotten about the farms that now have empty sheds or reduced stock and lower margins. They appear to be looking after themselves for the time being, with less concern for the families involved with producing the meat they sell.
I hope that as time passes and we form a ‘new normal’ and a change in the way we live, as well as looking at all the lessons learnt from the pandemic, then relationships between retailer and farmer can be improved, with more focus on ensuring the farms get enough of the value of the end product to re-invest. This could be through more pro-active raw material linked pricing structures.
It is something as a whole sector we can improve by working together, with secure contracts. Currently millions could be invested into poultry sites. Sometimes it’s easy glaze over the fact this is a farming family’s bread and butter and they cannot afford to be told you must leave a shed empty shortly after building them. We can only hope the retailers remember this as things improve and make up for lost income in the years ahead. It is a dream, anyway!
I am confident that as an industry we shall be stronger than before, and with good communication and increased fairness through the chain, there is no reason why poultry won’t continue to be a leading agricultural sector for the UK.