Bacon, Britain's favourite breakfast food, is under threat – with 10 per cent of pig producers saying they may be forced to quit by Christmas, defeated by high feed prices.
But the whole problem could be sorted out if shoppers were prepared to pay an extra 2p per rasher, explained a leading Westcountry pig farmer.
The National Pig Association (NPA) has collated statistics showing pig feed has increased in cost by a quarter this year, with prices likely to go on rising.
It says that around one-and-a-half million rashers of British bacon a week look likely to disappear from supermarket shelves, while 2.3 million sausages a week are also at risk of disappearing. It will also mean less British sausage rolls and pork pies on the shelves.
The NPA, which blames poor crop-growing weather around the world for making pig feed too expensive for farmers, is urging shoppers to make a special effort to support them over the months ahead. Pig farmers needed to persuade the supply chain to work together towards a producer price that reflected the rises in feed prices.
"If supermarkets see a surge in demand for British products, they may be persuaded to pay our farmers the few extra pennies to cover their soaring feed bills," said NPA general manager Dr Zoe Davies. "We are asking shoppers to look for the British Red Tractor logo on bacon, sausages and pork."
Empty spaces on supermarket shelves could be filled with imported bacon and sausages – but these would not be produced to British welfare standards. European pork products will also soon be in shorter supply too, as the European Commission expects EU pig production to shrink.
British pig farmers have faced a 25 per cent increase in the cost of pig feed ingredients, such as wheat and soya, as a result of drought in the USA. At the same time, intense rivalry is making supermarkets reluctant to pay farmers more to cover their extra costs.
In a new NPA survey, pig farmers representing 10 per cent of Britain's weekly pig-meat production said if they did not see a fair price between now and Christmas they would have no option but to stop production — because they could not afford to feed their animals.
"Trying to get more money from the supermarkets is like getting blood from a stone," said Andrew Freemantle, who farms 300 sows near Exeter. "It costs farmers £1.70 now to produce a kilo of sausages, but they are only getting £1.50 from the retailers. An extra 2p per sausage would make all the difference, as would an extra 2p per rasher of bacon."