Features Editor's Comment

The news that Selfridges is bringing out a stainless steel fondue set, priced at £450, might have some people asking 'why?'. But it had me groaning, as it brought back painful memories of a skiing holiday when, for the first time in my adult life, I was unable to finish off a plate of food. I can still visualise the towering pans dripping cheese over a hot gas burner, and a plate with huge hunks of meat lolling by the side. Has there ever been a more filling dish?

The recent fuss is due to the fact that fondue set sales have been rocketing up 120% at Selfridges last year. It's all part of the new trend for something formally known as 'communal dining', but which has also coined the ridiculous term 'cocooning cuisine'.

Silly terminology aside, this does at least conjure up the sense of people gathering together to eat at home rather than venturing outdoors. This behavioural shift has been a nightmare for restaurants, but good news for retailers and some of the products sold by them too. Pork, for example, is excellent value compared to lamb and beef.

Yet as we recount in our news pages this week, pig producers are losing £5 for every pig, and the hardship is likely to continue well into next year especially if interest rates rise and borrowing becomes more expensive. According to Bpex, the problems have been exacerbated because the major retailers aren't "fully supporting the British pigmeat industry" which is code for the fact that major supermarkets aren't paying enough to their suppliers. At the same time, pork retail prices have risen, because that is what consumers have been led to expect by so many news headlines. Draw your own conclusions from all this, but someone is making bumper margins on pork (as well as fondue sets) and we'll leave you with this clue it's not the farmers.

On a lighter note, we hope you've been enjoying our coverage of the World Meat Congress on Twitter. Keep watching for more news from Buenos Aires online at meatinfo.co.uk and in the next issue of MTJ.

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