Lidl has today (Friday, April 26) announced a £500 million investment into the British pork sector to address recent sector-wide challenges.

These challenges include rising costs, a Chinese import ban on EU pork and butcher shortages, which led to a “significant backlog of healthy pigs and financial worries for producers, according to the retailer.

The ‘Lidl Pork Standard’ sees the retailer’s pork producers move to an open-book producer costing model that includes the on-farm cost of production, guarantees minimum producer volumes and includes a fixed margin for farmers.

Lidl said this change was developed in collaboration with pork producers through its newly created Lidl pork producer group, to show that it recognises the need for a “more sustainable pricing model within the pork sector for suppliers and farmers”.

Through the new pork producer group, Lidl said it will fund research and development projects aimed at mimicking the natural behaviours of pigs, such as rooting, sniffing and chewing, in turn improving their overall wellbeing.

In a new trial, 3D cameras have been introduced to record the nature and frequency of the animals’ enrichment interactions, with the data being subsequently used to enhance welfare.

Lidl is also investing in assessing the carbon footprint of all the farms in its pork producer group and said it will subsequently be putting plans in place to reduce these emissions.

Alongside this, the retailer will also be investing over £250,000 in at-risk Great British catchments to support river health and water quality, while working to achieve deforestation-free soy sourcing by the end of 2025.

Chief commercial officer at Lidl GB, Richard Bourns, said: “This latest investment underlines our commitment to British producers, animal welfare and the environment.

“Acknowledging the challenges faced by the industry and its farmers in recent years, we recognised the need for intervention and the development of a bespoke solution addressing these challenges.

“That’s why we’ve been working closely with our suppliers and farmers, including major partners such as Cranswick and Pilgrim’s, to ensure we understand the intricacies of this supply chain and are well positioned to deliver impactful change.”

Bourns said that Lidl’s pork market share is “significantly greater” than its broader market share, highlighting the influence it has in this area and its responsibility to bring positive change.

“Our new pork standard is all about supporting our rural communities and ensuring the resilience of the sector while providing customers with high-quality British pork at affordable prices,” he said.

British pork

Chief executive of the National Pig Association (NPA), Lizzie Wilson, said: “The NPA welcomes the introduction of Lidl’s pork producer contracts and its continued commitment to ensuring a sustainable domestic supply of British pork.”

Managing Director Farms – Pork Division at Cranswick Plc, Rick Buckle, said: “It’s great to see Lidl’s continued commitment to British pig farming and we’re thrilled to be working with them on its new standard.

“Together, we’ve already commenced groundbreaking research trials aimed at enhancing pig welfare and are excited to work in partnership with Lidl for years to come.”

Operations Director for Agriculture at Pilgrim’s Europe, Fábio Brancher, said: “With Lidl’s support, this collaborative approach will provide crucial stability for our third-party farmers, shielding them from market volatility and aiding their recovery from recent challenges.

“This next step with Lidl underscores our commitment to supporting British farmers and fostering a sustainable future for the sector, and we look forward to developing our relationship further.”