The premium sausage specialist will begin a small-scale trial with about 100 sows on its site in Yorkshire within the next few months. The trial will be used to measure costs and assess the viability of a larger production unit.
The move was necessary as there was not enough extra capacity from its current pigmeat suppliers to meet the company's long-term growth plans, said Debbie & Andrew's co-owner Andrew Keeble.
The business had recently been boosted by a £1m contract to supply Tesco with gluten-free sausages, he added. Farmers quitting the industry due to poor returns over the past decade had halved the British pig herd, Keeble said, but consumers and retailers were currently looking to source British meat whenever possible.
"There's huge demand for British, meaning there are terrible [high] forecast prices coming in for shoulder pork," he claimed. "It's a bidding war for British pork because there isn't any about. Debbie & Andrew's has hung its hat on fully farm-traceable British pork but it could be difficult to get hold of supply in the future."
The Keebles previously farmed 650 sows, but ceased production to focus on processing 10 years ago as primary production became unprofitable. However, Keeble claimed, returns for pig production were now "pretty good" and said farmers should consider re-starting production, provided they could closely match it with demand.
A manageable number of highly efficient sow units was the way to go, rather than a mass switch to production, he added. Keeble estimated an investment of £50,000 should be enough to get the trial herd off the ground as most of the facilities were already in place on the company's farm. Debbie & Andrew's plans to share its findings on the cost of pig production with the industry and its retail customers, Keeble said.