ST. EDMUNDSBURY CO-OPERATIVE BACON FACTORY
45. This factory was erected in 1911-12. At the end of 1925 there were 1,773 members, 76 new members having joined during the year. The subscribed capital amounted to £29,953. As a result of rather less than 14 years’ working good profits have been made.
46. The factory is administered by a Committee of 15, of whom 5 are elected annually for a period of 3 years. The admin- istrative staff consists of the chairman (paid), the manager, the secretary and the accountant. Three clerks and 2 typists are employed in the office. The engine room staff comprises one engineer, one stoker and one engineer’s assistant. The remainder of the staff consists of 1 motor-van driver, 2 men in charge of packing, receiving, weighing and grading pigs, 4 men on small goods and 20 factory hands under the principal foreman.
47. The activities of the Society include the maintenance of White House Farm, Elmswell, and three retail shops, at Yarmouth, Gorleston and Lowestoft respectively. White House Farm was acquired in 1923 at a cost of approximately £4,000, and is the outcome of a scheme for experimental breeding and feeding of pigs for bacon. The scheme has proved costly, and the Committee has recently decided to sell the farm.
48. The factory is conveniently situated, with ample space for extension, on a private siding close to the London and North Eastern Railway station at Elmswell in Suffolk, between Bury St. Edmunds and Stowmarket. The factory, which covers an area of approximately 210 ft. by 75 ft., was of Danish design. Adjacent to the factory are 3 cottages, owned by the Society, which are used for the accommodation of certain members of the staff. Originally designed to deal with from 750 to 1,000 pigs per week, the factory has been re-arranged and extended to provide an out- put capacity estimated at 1,200 pigs per week, dry cure. Tanks have been provided to deal with 500 pigs per week, but, except as an alternative to dry curing, lack of storage accommodation would prevent their being used if the factory were working at full pressure.
The cost of the land and buildings was about £25,700, and of the equipment about £13,600, making a total of £39,300, which represents, in relation to weekly output capacity, an initial outlay at pre-war prices of about £33 per pig. A 56 h.p. Atlas (Copenhagen) steam engine, running alternately with a 150 h.p. Vickers Petter oil engine, operates the dynamos (Atlas and Compton respectively) which supply the motive power of the machinery and the factory lighting. Accumulators are charged for use at night. The chill and curing rooms are cooled by an Atlas (Copenhagen) 16-ton refrigator plant, a similar plant of 60 tons by Lightfoot being held in reserve. The Society obtains an adequate supply of water from its own artesian wells of 130 ft. and 180 ft. respectively, from which water is raised by means of .suction pumps discharging into a reservoir on the ground level, a third pump raising the water to an overhead storage tank. The average weekly consumption is estimated at 50,000 gallons. A water softening plant, with a capacity of 1,500 gallons per generation, is installed in connection with the horizontal boiler, which provides steam for the engine as well as for the scalding and cooking plant. The sewage runs into a large septic tank where it is allowed to settle before being pumped into a larger tank of 250,000 gallons capacity from which it runs by gravity through filter beds and finally discharges into a deep well. The remainder of the plant is concerned with the various manufactur- ing processes.
49. The method of working follows the same general lines as that described in some detail in the account of the Hitchin factory. The butchering process is highly organised ; 8 tables, each bearing 2 sides of bacon, are arranged in a circle in the hanging room ; two men fetch and carry the sides, the remainder of the hands working in pairs from table to table, each attending to a particular section of the work, the foreman bringing up the rear and putting the finishing touches to the sides before they are returned to the overhead bar and run into the chill room. Killing takes place on 3 days in the week, namely Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Monday’s killing is butchered on Tuesday morning, and salted on Wednesday. The curing process (dry cure) takes approximately 10 days, after which the sides are allowed to mature for a further 8 days. Smoking, when required, occupies from 36 to 48 hours.
50. Prices for pigs are fixed weekly, on Friday, but are subject to variation in market changes before the end of the price week. They are notified to members by circular as holding good ” until further notice.” In addition to the published price, the Society allows 2s. per pig, sow or boar for carting. The Society also pays carriage on minimum lots of 8 pigs sent by rail within a radius of 100 miles. As insurance against condemned carcases or offals, the Society charges 3d. per bacon pig and 2s. 6d. per sow or boar. A memorandum record is kept of condemned carcases and offals at current prices, the appropriate sales account (pork and offals) being credited a”nd the insurance fund charged with the potential yield.
51. Up to the first week in December, 1924, a premium at the rate of 6d. per score was paid for Grade A pigs, and thereafter at 1s. per score, until the third week in March, 1926. After that date an intermediate Grade B was introduced for which 6d. per score was paid. Pigs are graded by the weighing hand, under the direction of the manager, and classified on the Purchase Note (Statement of Account) as follows :-
(i) Grade A.-Long-lean pigs, good middle, plump ham, small shoulder.
(ii) Grade B.-Thicker in back fat, but otherwise equal to Grade A.
(iii) Lean Pigs.-Long lean pigs, but with thinner flank and streaks.
(iv) Stout Pigs.-Pigs measuring more than two inches back fat.
(v) Sixes and Porkers.-Underweight pigs.
(vi) Inferior Pigs.-Seedy cut, bruises, flabbiness, thinness.
Payment is made at the following rates :-
Classes (i) and (ii) at the respective premiums above stated.
Classes (iii) and (iv) at the flat rate.
Classes (v) and (vi) at slightly less than the flat rate.
52. All pigs are bought by dead weight. Those which are killed are weighed while still warm after removal of entrails. The carcase is weighed without removal from the bar, a section of which forms one side of the scales, the weight being automatically stamped on a ticket to which is added the number ear-marked on the pig, these particulars being entered in the slaughter book. A deduction of 5 lb. is made for the gambrel and hooks and a further deduction of 3 per cent. from warm to cold weight, upon which payment is made. It is estimated that the average shrinkage from live-weight to dead-weight is about 23 per cent. ; pigs weighed alive for re-sale are accordingly paid for at 77 per cent. of recorded weight. The average over-all weight for the two years 1924 and 1925 was approximately 8 score per pig.
53. It is the custom to accept all pigs sent in to the factory, and to utilise as many as possible for killing. Only those pigs which are unsuitable for killing (i.e., not up to factory standard) are sold alive and these are sorted out by the foreman on arrival. The supply is fairly good and the proportion from members satisfactory, although at no time during the two years under review has the supply reached the capacity of the factory. Members are under no legal obligation to supply pigs. Endeavour is made, as far as possible, to book up supplies a week in advance. Dealers are not used for this purpose, but the Committee employ two canvassers to explain the objects and advantages of the factory, and to persuade farmers to send in their pigs.
54. The Society disposes of its products through its own selling organisation, the ” St. Edmund’s ” Brand of bacon being now firmly established in the trade. Except for a small quantity of offals and sausages, etc., which are sold by the Society’s shops, all offals are disposed of in London ; all sausages, pies, puddings, etc., are sold ex-factory.