Leading pig production company Midland Pig Producers (MPP) has scooped a UK national farming award in recognition of its commitment to modernization. MPP was announced the winner of the Food & Farming Industry Awards' coveted Enterprise and Innovation title after demonstrating its dedication to advancing animal welfare standards and enhancing pig production techniques.
The awards, organized by Farm Business, were hosted at the House of Commons by Tiverton & Honiton MP Neil Parish and featured political commentator and BBC presenter Jeremy Vine as guest speaker for the evening. They celebrated the best of the UK food and farming industry, recognizing those businesses whose drive and enthusiasm continue to boost the economy and act as ambassadors for other farming companies to follow.
MPP is a nationally acclaimed pig producer which has been at the forefront of efforts to modernize pig farming and promote best practice in the care and welfare of commercially-farmed pigs for decades. In 2012, the Staffordshire-based business won a Good Sow Commendation from Compassion In World Farming award for its revolutionary 360º Freedom Farrower and more recently received official approval from the RSPCA for the design, who will ban the conventional confinement crates from January 1, 2014.
The 360º Freedom Farrower was designed by MPP Managing Director Martin Barker and his team. It has the same footprint as a conventional crate but improves the way in which the sow can be handled while allowing more freedom of movement. Its flexible design with moveable restraining bars give the animal space to turn around in the pen but also enables close containment when necessary. This increases the sow's nesting ability and reduces her stress, which leads to fewer deaths, fewer still born piglets, heavier weaning rates and increased profits.
Following extensive trials on its own farms, the company has now patented the design and has commenced production for a worldwide market.
In addition to animal welfare priorities, MPP is also pushing the boundaries in environmental innovation. It was the first farm in the UK to have a covered slurry lagoon and provided the government with facilities to conduct scientific research into ammonia emissions which are now used to set industry standards. It is also pursuing planning approval for a 30-acre site in Foston, Derbyshire, to develop a pig farm with an integral biomass plant to generate environmentally-friendly energy.
In recognising MPP's achievements, the judges agreed MPP was an exemple for UK farming, "continually campaigning for the right to produce at a scale that UK businesses need in order to survive today's competitive forces".
Commenting on MPP's success, Barker said: "I'm delighted. This is a highly prestigious farming award which really epitomises the values and beliefs we live by. We're passionate about getting things right and ensuring modern pig farming balances its responsibilities towards animal welfare and the environment with improved productivity and business benefits.
"This award reflects the tenacity of a whole team of people over the years who've shared our vision for a more ethical model of pig production and worked hard to make it happen. Their continued effort is helping to inspire other businesses to look for a new approach."
Group Director James Leavesley, added: "This award recognizes how much can be achieved through refusal to standstill and rising to the challenges posed by modern farming.
"There are countless economic opportunities to producing pigs from a more socially conscious standpoint including greater consumer confidence and reduced stress levels in the animals. By accepting that change is necessary and concentrating on reform, we are securing a better future for farmers across the UK."