Alberta pork producers bullish about the future

By Mabell, Dave on May 29, 2014.


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For Alberta’s pork producers, there’s a little more gravy on the plate.

After several lean years, industry officials report demand and prices are on the rise. And so far, Alberta’s farms remain free of a new disease that’s affected many producers in the U.S.

“There’s really a high demand for protein products globally,” explains Darcy Fitzgerald, executive director for Alberta Pork.

And Canada remains one of just a handful of nations that’s still exporting food products to countries around the world.

“We currently ship about 70 per cent of all our food products outside of Canada,” he said, as southern Alberta producers gathered for an annual get-together in Lethbridge.

Specialty pork cuts processed in Lethbridge are shipped to Japan, he pointed out. Live hogs from Alberta may be trucked to Oregon or Iowa, as well as to plants in this province, British Columbia or Saskatchewan.

“It has a significantly higher value now, over the last six months,” he said. For producers, Fitzgerald said it means an opportunity to recoup losses, when hogs were selling at an estimated loss of $40 to $50 each.

Hard times have cut seriously into the number of Alberta producers, Fitzgerald added.

“In the 1960s, we had about 26,000 producers in Alberta.”

A decade ago, he said, that number was down to about 1,200.

“Now we have 380 in Alberta,” almost one-half of them within driving distance of Lethbridge.

And some, in typical Alberta style, raise both hogs and cattle.

In his report to southern producers, Fitzgerald outlines precautions being taken to ward off the virus that’s hit some American producers. Strict “bio-security” steps are being taken to keep Alberta’s industry healthy.

Alberta Pork is also focussing on promotional events, including a new “Passion for Pork” campaign. It’s recently sponsored a Kansas City-style barbecue festival in Calgary, he said, with one to follow in Edmonton.

“Our pork is well sought after,” he said.

Fitzgerald said pulled barbecue pork is increasingly in demand. It’s a treat anyone can create in their slow cooker.

“Now we’re seeing it in sandwiches and on pizza.”