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‘Pork for every home’ - CB on a mission to blanket menus, household meals with pork

Published:Sunday | December 4, 2016 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham

Caribbean Broilers (CB) Group wants a bigger slice of the pork market and has set an ambitious target of getting a ham in "every home" this Christmas - or at the very least a good chunk of them - and to make pork and pork products a breakfast staple.

CB Corporate Affairs Manager Dr Keith Amiel says the poultry group's pork business, Copperwood came to the conclusion, through research, that more Jamaicans want to eat more pork, and would, if it were readily available.

"Our analysis shows that it was not a demand curve but rather the problem was a supply curve. That initial survey showed that people could only get four ounces of pork once every two weeks," said Amiel.

"So all we had to do to improve the industry to get them to eat it once every week or even two to three times per week," he told Gleaner Business.

CB/Copperwood wants to grow its market share to 40 per cent in three years. It now claims a 25 per cent share of the market.

Part of its strategy included the doubling of capacity for ham production, which involved installation of a new machine. Copperwood declined to comment on the capacity of its plant, citing competitive reasons.

CB is also supplying pig farmers with genetic stock, developed by its R&D arm Newport Genetics, so that the farmers can develop pure breeds such as Long Race, Duroc and Pure White pigs - all to produce better-quality meat.

CB's current survey shows that 67-70 per cent of Jamaicans eat pork but that their consumption is limited by the availability of the protein, said Amiel. He adds that the way Jamaicans consume pork is confined to well-known cooking methods, and his company wants to break that cycle.

"The survey showed that of the meats, only stew pork was regularly eaten across the board. Upper St Andrew would eat pork chops and, of the processed pork, only bacon was eaten at breakfast," he said.

"Unfortunately, ham is only consumed at Christmas. So the marketing challenge is to make ham an all-year-round product."

The company has been training butchers in how to cut pork to get premium cuts; and restaurateurs on how to diversify their menus.

Amiel cited a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which says that of all the countries in the Caribbean, Jamaica was the most efficient at producing pork, and that the prices here would be equivalent to production costs in the United States.

Copperwood has already embarked on an export drive, with products and live animals going into Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti and St Vincent and the Grenadines to leverage business out of Jamaica's comparative advantage.

Amiel also feels that the regional pork market has a lot more juice in it, just waiting to be unlocked.

If CARICOM rules of origin were properly applied, then Jamaica would be in a good position to supply hotels and restaurants in the Caribbean in the face of high levels of imports, he said.

"If we were imposing the Common External Tariff, which is 45 per cent, on extra-regional goods, then Jamaica would be the most competitive place for them to get their goods," Amiel said.

At the same time, Copperwood is concerned about the peaks and troughs of pork supply in Jamaica. The market is often characterised by violent swings between oversupply and shortage.

Brand Manager Tina Hamilton says Copperwood found that there was a dearth of information on how to consume pork regularly, hence the company's 'Know Your Pork' campaign.

Copperwood has also reached out to several stakeholders in a bid to smooth out demand and supply patterns in the industry and to get pork and pork products on the table.

"We contacted, for example, restaurants and we're trying to get them to put more pork on their menus," Hamilton said.

In order to guard against a glut, CB, through Newport Genetics, has instituted a policy where replacement gilts - pigs that are used to produce piglets - are controlled very tightly. In addition, Copperwood has partnered with Island Grill (jerk pork), Mothers Patties (pork patty), and Wendy's (pulled pork sandwich) to keep pork products on their menus.

Hamilton says the margins that Copperwood makes on pork is thin because of the genetics component of the operation, but that the poultry group is looking at the big picture when measuring its returns.

"It is about building sustainability, so it's not something we are doing in a vacuum," said Hamilton.

"That is why we're reaching out to everybody. So the chef has to become involved, the hoteliers, the supermarket owners the restaurateurs and everybody who touches pork has to be on the same page as the farmer so that we all work in tandem," she said.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com