Heather Jenkins, director of buying for meat, poultry, fish, frozen food, dairy, and agriculture strategy, was presented with the award by Agriculture Minister David Heath at a breakfast at the House of Lords yesterday (7 November). The award, now in its 52nd year, recognises individuals who have made a significant and sustained commitment to the pig industry.
The judges’ citation said that, during her time at Waitrose, Jenkins had developed “the most comprehensive and diverse producer group structure in Europe, with more than 30 separate categories. These groups have been developed in conjunction with dedicated processors, giving producers an assured market, a clear direction, and a more stable pricing base on which to build their business.”
Bpex chairman Stewart Houston said: “Heather has transformed British pork and pork products into sustainable, high-quality, aspirational food. She has had an outstanding impact on British livestock production.
“Her support for British pig farming at times of severe volatility in input costs and finished pig prices has been a stabilising influence at times of uncertainty. She is a worthy winner of this year’s David Black award.”
Heather said she was “humbled” to be the first retailer to be honoured with the award and proud to be involved in such a resilient sector, which had received little help from the market.
“Innovation has a significant part to play in giving consumers what they want and ensuring the viability of the industry,” she told politicians and members of the industry. “I have long believed in continuous improvement, sharing best practice and being honest on difficult subjects.”
She encouraged the sector to think about step-changes that need to take place, adding that although leadership and cultural changes are important, “the main ingredient is farmers working together in a way that has not been done before to shape the future, building a more robust supply chain, encouraging investment at farm level and fostering long term confidence.
“It is only in working towards a sustainable future that we can hope to see some improvements today,” she said.
Jenkins graduated from Harper Adams Agricultural College in Agri-Business and Food Marketing, then joined Waitrose as a section management trainee, specialising in meat, rising to her current position in 2008.
McDonald’s also won the Sausage Oscar, an award that acknowledges a company’s contribution to furthering the great British banger. Bpex direcctor Mick Sloyan presented the award to McDonald’s CEO and president of Northern Europe Jill McDonald. He said that the quickservice restaurant, which sources 100% of its sausages and bacon from over 800 UK farms was supporting sustainable agriculture and ethical production conditions to deliver year-on-year improvement.