What follows is a compilation of extracts from emails from farmers or smallholders about the prices they can get for the food they produce or from other members of the public about the prices they can pay if they avoid the supermarkets.
Very much regretted by all is the demise of the local abbattoir brought about by EU interference it seems.
I bought a whole lamb off a local farmer friend, and so cut out the middle man/men.It was delivered to my door, cut up and bagged and it cost less per pound than cheese in the supermarket.
When I came here 22 years ago, we bought from the local butcher who had his own farm and abbattoir; the cattle, sheep, and pigs were never happier. Then the blasted EU stuck their dripping noses in and his abbattoir was closed down. Long story short, a good few years ago he committed suicide.
We need to buy our own produce at a fair and reasonable price and tell the supermarkets where to get off.
Re intensive pig production:All the man can do is check that the time clocks are set for the feed times, slurry disposal, ventilation etc. There is a walk way over the pigs for the man to wander along to check the pigs.
This is what the supermarkets are encouraging. The Agri Company will have a contract to supply large quantities of meat at the lowest possible price. The supermarkets often demand lower prices every so often so the producer has to produce more pigs to survive. And on and on and on..... it goes. Eventually the supermarket finds out it is cheaper to import the meat.
Its not farming, its meat production. If we all come down against it, our meat will come from similar units in other countries. What the NFU calls exporting our industries.
The only way to stop it is to stop buying meat from supermarkets like we dont buy petrol from them! Ha!
3. It is the intervention of BIG BUSINESS into food production which has caused all of our problems in farming, from over-production to re-cycling animal remains and the use of mechanically recovered meat- I find it hard to conceive of a more disgusting and unjustifiable practice than this, particularly when there was a beef mountain. Why did the government allow these things? Can you imagine what the attitude of the environmental health or food standards agency would be if you said you wanted to diversify into mechanically recovered meat - even before BSE? Yet BIG BUSINESS was allowed to get away with it. It must have been quite obvious to all the authorities that such practices benefited no-one except the companies involved and should have been common sense that they were likely to have undesirable consequences.
It is surely the duty of government to protect us, both as farmers and as consumers, from such practices, either by banning them altogether or by making the perpetrators declare what they are doing. It is because the government has failed totally in this that I consider them liable for compensating us for the consequences of their negligence.
We have had various (useless overpaid) people come round here to 'advise' us about our direct selling business. They regard 'getting into the supermarkets' as the pinnacle of success and they are astonished when we say we wouldn't sell to them if they were the last outlet on earth! If you sell to a supermarket, like if you rear poultry for Sun Valley, you are a glorified employee, but with all the risks and none of the benefits. They 'factor in' an amount for wastage and as like as not they will retrospectively reduce the price after they have paid you. If you are stupid enough to sell stuff under their label, they can do what they like to you because you have no alternative. And the really stupid part is that, certainly with meat, it is not cheap to buy in the supermarket - unless it is some they are trying to get rid of in a hurry! And all this 'farm assurance' is simply about controlling the suppliers. The food is certainly not traceable and the average consumer couldn't care less about this anyway.
Having got that lot off my chest whilst drying out from the last soaking, I'd better get back to work!
I sold a small number of lambs (last year's!)a couple of months ago to local people privately, at £25 per half (already butchered). Minus costs, I made £36 on each lamb. Not a fortune, but enough to pay for the hay I've just bought in.
I guess if I'd had time to market it properly, could have sold it for quite a lot more. As it was, I could have sold what I had three times over to people I know. There is, without a doubt, a huge demand for locally produced meat (reared in a way which people know is animal welfare friendly). When I've sold pork in the past, people have said how relieved they have been to be eating meat which they know has been produced locally, and with no antibiotics or growth promoters, etc.
The way forward must be through farming co-operatives, farmers' markets, etc - and let's hope our hearts groups can help promote this.
(warmwell note: does anyone know anything about the successful mobile slaughter unit in Cornwall? He comes to your farm and the animals are never stressed.)