Niche Pork: Exploring opportunities for alternative swine production and marketing.
Increasing global demand for livestock products is pressuring land resources already
under competition with crop agriculture, biofuels, urbanization and conservation. Yield
gaps within sustainable agriculture may further intensify this land competition. At the
same time, consumers are becoming more particular over the practices used to raise
livestock for meat products. Ni... read moreche meat marketing opportunities are emerging as consumer
awareness and demand increases for differentiated livestock products. Accordingly, the
purpose of this project is to examine the bio-physical and socio-economical components
of a niche pork value chain within a regional food system. Within this study, niche pork
refers to pigs that are raised in a known location, on vegetarian feed, without
sub-therapeutic antibiotics and no added growth hormones. Methods: This three-part
project used a mixed-methods approach including environmental modeling and econometrics
with primary and secondary data. Part 1 focused on existing pork production to determine
the performance metrics typical of niche pork production and compare to
conventionally-raised swine. Primary data was collected from 176 self-identified niche
pork producers across the United States and analyzed with descriptive statistics and
qualitative methods. Part 2 utilized the data collected in Part 1 to estimate the land
requirements typical of three systems: conventional confined environment, niche enhanced
environment, and niche outdoor environment. Biophysical modeling of Part 2 were bounded
by nutritional feed needs and living space allocation. Part 3 concentrated on the
consumption side of the supply chain to explore retail consumers' value and knowledge of
alternative animal production in New England. Part 3 gathered data from 373 specialty
market retail customers in Metro-Boston to estimate their willingness-to-pay (WTP), rank
production characteristics, and evaluate meat eco-labeling understanding. Results:
Examination of performance at specific life phases demonstrated that niche pork
productivity can be close to conventional pork. Overall land requirements ranged from
0.85 to 1.22 hectares per bred sow per year for the three systems. Cropland was a
stronger factor than living space when considering the total land needs. Niche enhanced
and outdoor environments were 17% to 44% greater in total land requirements than the
conventional confined environment. When considering trade-offs of alternative
production, niche pork requires more land yet offers benefits for the producer, herd,
consumer and environment that should be considered when evaluating swine management
strategies. Significant predictors of niche pork WTP centered on tenderloin preferences.
Consumer participants were strongly concerned with added hormones and sub-therapeutic
antibiotics, followed by living space and outdoor access. Participants recognized
federal meat eco-labels but did not understand production differences among federal and
private labeling programs. Implications: Outreach and dissemination of the study's
results will provide an opportunity for niche farmers to compare their production
against alternative and conventional averages in order to improve productivity and
become more profitable. Similarly, project findings will suggest the market potential
for niche meat that could be used to support a pork value chain for the New England
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2015.
Submitted to the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
Advisor: Christian Peters.
Committee: Barbara Parmenter, Sean Cash, and Timothy Griffin.
Keywords: Sustainability, Animal sciences, and Agriculture economics.read less