Pork is the most consumed meat on the planet. It accounts for over 36 percent of the world’s meat intake, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. 

South Africa is an exception to the rule, though: our country is one of the world’s leading consumers of chicken, with research indicating a per capita consumption of 42 kilograms a year.  

This is driven by more than just a great love for poultry. “There are some general misconceptions about pork products which contribute to low levels of pork production, including pork hygiene, religious beliefs, as well as about how to cook pork,” says Arnold Prinsloo, Eskort CEO. 

But with the value for money pork offers, and in a world changed by the ongoing pandemic where value is a key concern for South African households, this balance could start to shift. And this is a change backed by pork’s inherent nutritional value, and world-class food safety and hygiene standards. 

This is also supplemented by constant innovation around quality and sustainability to prioritise the health and well-being of South African consumers. 

Putting quality and safety first
As a case in point: farmers that are part of Eskort’s supply chain – as South Africa’s leading pork brand – form the cornerstone of its quality assurance programme, helping guarantee the best-in-pork experience, on and off the plate. 

The Eskort quality assurance programme is called SAFE, and it stands for Sustainable – environmental sustainability, sow-friendly practices, pig welfare and biosecurity; Accountable – traceability, uncompromised hygiene practices and rigid quality control measures; Farm-to-fork – responsibility across the entire value chain; and Excellence – superior, award-winning products for 104 years. 

This Farm-to-Fork quality control programme that addresses the entire value chain – including processing and manufacturing – suppliers, manufacturers and processors are graded and held accountable for complying with how they maintain their facilities, as well as how they look after the pigs’ welfare once they are delivered into those facilities. 

“Hygiene and safety measures are rigorous. This includes farmers constructing fences on brick foundations to prevent any unauthorised human or animal entry into barns which could lead to biosecurity and health risks within farming units,” says Prinsloo. 

“There are specialised wash bays to disinfect the wheels and undercarriages of trucks accessing all facilities, while drivers have to enter through a dry shower, changing into dedicated clean overalls to offload. These vehicles further have to be washed before leaving.”

Where genetics and sustainability meet to create a superior pork ecosystem
These hygiene and safety efforts are complemented by the commitment to ensuring the quality of the pigs genetics within the pork brand’s value chain. 

It is critical for Eskort to have a world-class genetic supplier – Topigs Norsvin – which specialises in cost-efficient pig production by enabling farmers to reduce their total feed efficiency. 

This is a measure of the total feed inputs against the total output of the farm and takes all losses within the system into account. Improving the efficiency of feed usage and leakages within the system not only saves this valuable and high-cost commodity but results in reducing a farm’s carbon footprint.

Reducing environmental impact, ensuring animal welfare, and guaranteeing food safety are non-tangible but essential quality aspects of pork production. Topigs Norsvin genetics assist farmers in meeting these requirements. 

Their breeding goals are designed to keep the wellbeing of the pig, the farmer, and the environment in mind, contributing to the sustainable and responsible production of pork.
Healthy and naturally robust animals also lead to reduced antibiotic use – ultimately improving animal welfare.

More than ensuring the health and wellbeing of the pigs and the broader farm environment, the company’s farmers are also constantly innovating around sustainability and making plans to do more and better. 

Farmers supplying Eskort, for example, created and introduced solutions around water recycling and purification, found ways to use manure as biofuel, created their own feed and feeding systems, and got involved in vulture conservation programmes by using mortalities to help feed vulnerable African vultures. 

All these elements form an important part of creating and maintaining the gold standard in pork. 

“Consumers are increasingly conscious and savvy about the products they choose – we read the labels on products more than ever before, compare products and ask questions, so it is essential for brands like us to be able to provide that comfort and reassurance about how we operate,” says Prinsloo.

“Adopting quality assurance measures like this will help drive the popularity of pork in South Africa. 

“Pork is an incredibly versatile meat, and a holistic approach to quality assurance from South Africa’s pork producers and farmers will help reassure consumers that we put their health and well-being above all else.”

By Eskort CEO, Arnold Prinsloo