I was at a meeting in Spain recently where a hot topic was ‘consumer driven pig farming’, which according to many is the landscape of pig farming in the future. The focus of this philosophy is the next generation consumer. At a certain moment, one of the presenters asked who had been born after 1980.  Just a few people raised their hands, which led the speaker to conclude that the pig sector is currently an ageing one. A generation that still believes that animal health is the greatest threat facing the industry. But the threat is coming from a different corner….

Why are millennials generalised as a Martian-like threat?

According to the conference speaker, the greatest threat to the pig sector is the emergence of the millennials; the generation born between 1980 and 2000. This immediately sparked a lively discussion, in which millennials were referred to as beings from another planet. Like Martians, scary and unpredictable. “You have to observe millennials closely; their look on life is totally different”, said the speaker. “You have to pull out all the stops to keep this type of person a satisfied customer.” But how?

Information any time, any place

This generation has grown up with ever more smart technology and thinks it’s perfectly normal to be able to access the necessary information any time, any place. They are a very tech-savvy generation, they know a lot. And if they don’t know something, they look it up. They don’t just take what they see or hear at face value. It is therefore absolutely vital that the information they do find is correct!

 To be or not to be transparent

What it boils down to is that pig farmers and suppliers in our sector can take two approaches to deal with the new consumer. Greater transparency in our production process, with the risk of more criticism. Or no transparency. But the inherent danger in that case is its unacceptability to millennials who will then go in search of information about the production processes of pigs, with the risk of being misinformed. A better option is to continue providing insight into what you do and release correct information, then the chances are that millennials will remain your customer.

Extra cost, who pays?

Meeting this consumer need and providing transparency is costly.  It represents a value that you should add to your product. Now extra costs are divided over more piglets. In monetary terms, half a piglet more per sow boosts profit margins. But the drawback is that this business model is at odds with what (future) consumers want to see.

The solution: the Premium piglet

A potential solution would be to help pig farmers raise very good piglets, a kind of premium piglet. A perfect creature with different genetics. Maybe pig farmers will raise fewer piglets in the future, but they will be of outstanding quality and there will be a lower risk of mortality, so fewer losses. The entire sector should take collective responsibility for this and help with data to raise animals in good health; and this includes us as a supplier of equipment for pig housing

Business case that inspires reflection

Ultimately, every link in the sector chain could benefit from and share in the bonus this piglet yields because it is so good. From suppliers of housing equipment, feed and other equipment to climate controllers. As soon as one link under-performs, the entire chain is affected. This mindset stimulates the delivery of only top quality products. Isn’t this a fantastic business case that inspires reflection?