by Laura Albus
One kilogram of minced meat costs 5.88 euros in the supermarket in Meldorf (Dithmarschen district). There pork from Thorben Lucht’s farm is sold. He is a pig farmer and runs the farm together with his father. Often he has already thought about giving up pig fattening. He is currently not making any profits with it. On the contrary. If he took his own labor into account, he would even make losses.
Currently no profit with pig fattening
The farmer fattening up around 5,500 pigs each year. He buys them as piglets at a farm in Kaiser-Wilhelm-Koog, just a few kilometers from his stable. There the pigs are fattened to a weight of 120 kilograms in just under six months. Thorben Lucht then sells them to a marketer, a kind of middleman. He then sells the animals to the slaughterhouse. There they are killed, cut up and processed into individual products for retail sale – for example into minced meat. Farmer Lucht cannot live on pigs alone. Agriculture and vegetables are the industries that currently finance him and his family. “Agriculture by and large is not fun right now,” he says and corrects himself immediately, “so it’s fun – it’s just not something you can use to make money.”
Slaughterhouses don’t keep up
On his last delivery to the slaughterhouse in Kellinghusen (Steinburg district) he received an average price of 135 euros per animal for his pigs. The price is made up of various factors, such as the size of the animals. The so-called pig jam plays an important role here.
Due to the failure of large German slaughterhouses due to the Corona crisis, due to the lack of workers and due to stricter hygiene rules, tens of thousands of pigs could not be slaughtered – a backlog of pigs formed on the farms. In Schleswig-Holstein, according to an estimate by the farmers’ association, there were around 50,000 to 60,000 animals at the end of November. In addition, there is the African swine fever, which causes the export of pork abroad to stall.
Pig jam pushes prices down
The farmers’ problem: the later it is slaughtered, the less they get. But the cost of feed continues to rise during this period. Only when an animal weighs around 120 kilograms can it be used by retailers. Because the bigger it is, the bigger the individual pork products are – and they don’t fit into the packaging.
Profit: 1.40 euros per animal
The 135 euros that the farmer Lucht received on average per animal when he was delivered on December 1st is not yet his profit. To find out, he has to calculate his expenses: a piglet currently costs 44 euros. In addition, there is 70 euros for feed, 5.60 euros for the vet, water, electricity and insurance as well as 14 euros for the removal of the stable. If Lucht deducts these expenses from his income, the bottom line is 1.40 euros. “My wages, for example, are not included. I’m currently working for free,” he says.
Demand for more money
According to Lucht, the greatest challenge is facing the piglet producers, because the 44 euros per piglet are little. Pig congestion also plays a role here: the pigs ready for slaughter ensure that the piglet producers do not get rid of their animals. There is simply no space in the stables. For the pig farmer Lucht, the first step in the right direction would be if he could get more money for his pigs from the retail trade: then he could pay more for the piglets without any losses. He would be satisfied with 40 euros more per pig: “Then it would be a price that you could live with for now.”
Supermarket does not comment on profit margin
The retail trade does not want to comment on this. The trading group to which Thorben Lucht mainly sells his pigs does not disclose how much Edeka earns from his pigs. Lucht currently receives around 1.30 euros for one kilogram of pig. “Then, of course, I ask myself where the price per kilo is around five euros and the remaining 3.70 euros. That’s a lot of money.”
Talks planned for January
Dirk Andresen, federal spokesman for the “Land Creates Connection” initiative, calls for retail to move. That is why he organized a meeting of the four large retail chains Rewe, Lidl, Edeka and Aldi under the direction of the Federal Association of Retailers. On January 11th and 12th they want to sit down at a virtual table and negotiate. “It can’t go on as it is now,” says Andresen, adding: “The food retail trade is putting pressure on the market through its market power. But the farmer has no market power and cannot do anything about it.”
Farmer does not like the price increase
After the numerous protests by farmers last year, price negotiations are now moving. Lidl gave in at the beginning of December and raised the price of some pork products by one euro. The additional proceeds should also reach LandwirtLucht. But that has not happened so far. The Association of Producers’ Associations for Cattle and Meat (VEZG) also confirms this. Less money for meat companies and more money for farmers, if necessary also slightly higher consumer prices – if farmer Lucht has his way, these are the adjusting screws that still have a lot to be done must become.