Pigs aren't flying but prices for their heads and ears go into orbit

Some butchers are struggling to get pigs’ heads, since demand took off in China.
Some butchers are struggling to get pigs’ heads, since demand took off in China.
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Whisper it — but a pair of pig’s ears are worth as much as a Jersey bull calf.

Fact is sometimes stranger than fiction, but few would have ever believed the previous statement.

However, it’s true.

While the much-maligned Jersey bull was impossible to sell in many marts this spring, the same cannot be said for pigs’ ears and heads.

The buoyant demand for pork in China has sent the price of pigs’ heads and ears into orbit — who said pigs don’t fly?

Pigs’ ears, which could have been bought for a few cents until recently, are now making close to a €5 a pair, a butcher in the west told me. You’d have bought a new-born Jersey bull for as much in February and March.

It’s a similar story with pigs’ heads. While they could have been bought for €2 or €3 earlier in the year, they are now making up to €10.

And that is if you can manage to get them.

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Some butchers are struggling to get pigs’ heads, since demand took off in China.

“There are very few abattoirs killing pigs these days, so it is tough to source pigs’ heads and ears — especially if you’re only looking for small numbers,” one Cork meat wholesaler explained.

He said the factories weren’t interested in selling a few heads here and there when the trade for them in China is so strong.

Irish factory prices have hit €1.85/kg, up from €1.40/kg in April, this week as the impact of the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak in China has transformed global markets.

This equates to a price hike of around €40/pig on an 85kg carcass.

China has been forced to cull seven million breeding sows as a result of the ASF outbreak.

This represents almost a quarter of its breeding herd — the world’s largest.

The cull means that China’s pork production this year is expected to fall by 25-30pc or around 16m tonnes.

There won’t be a pig’s ear to be got if the ASF lasts.

Online Editors


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