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Steve Chiotakis: The British livestock industry has had a tough time this past decade. The business has been battered by a series of epidemics — mad cow, foot and mouth, bluetongue. But one small corner of the industry is flourishing. Marketplace European correspondent Stephen Beard has met with Britain’s youngest pig farmer — a 16-year-old schoolgirl from western England. And he filed this report.
Stephen Beard: It’s 6 a.m. Most of her school friends are still in bed. But Emma Cianchi is hard at work taking care of business. In a field not far from her home, Emma feeds her fast-growing herd of rare-breed pigs.
EMMA CIANCHI: I suppose it all started when I asked for two pigs for my birthday, which I think my parents thought was quite a strange request for a 14-year-old girl.
Her parents tried to put her off. To show her how messy it would be they sent her on a pig-keeping course, with unforeseen results.
CIANCHI: It made me more aware about how rare some of the breeds are. So I wanted to help preserve them. And the best way to do that is by farming them.
BEARD: It’s a business now?
CIANCHI: Yes, definitely. And the whole family is now involved. So that’s nice.
Emma now has 38 rare-breed pigs like Saddlebacks and Gloucester Old Spots. She claims they make delicious sausages, bacon and chops — much better than the average supermarket pork. So people are willing to pay a premium. She’s now branched out into selling pig shelters and running her own pig-keeping course. A bit much for a 16-year-old, perhaps? Her dad, Pete, doesn’t think so.
PETE CIANCHI: I think it’s incredibly good for her. I mean from a money-managing point of view. The amount of paperwork that goes into a business. I mean, it’s certainly an experience that she will have that none of her school friends will have when it comes to going into the employment market.
In spite of her obvious affection for the pigs, Emma has learned one of the first rules of business: Don’t get sentimental about the stock.
BEARD: What about when they go off for slaughter? Isn’t that a bit of a wrench?
EMMA: I suppose I’m used to it by now. I know they’ve had a wonderful life. Looked after. They’ve been happy. And the meat tastes wonderful afterwards so yeah, I suppose I’m used to it.
In Preston-on-Wye this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.
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