Development of the Industry
The domestic pig is important for its efficiency in converting surplus grain and vegetable scraps into meat. Pigs became established during the main settlement of the 1840s; pork was included in the first shipment of frozen meat in 1882.
Before successful dairy and meat industries were established, pigs were fed mainly on grain and hence flourished up to 1886 in the South Island grain-growing districts. After 1886 these districts declined, while the North Island dairy farming expanded. By 1900 there were only 100,000 pigs in the South Island and this has been the average number since then. The North Island increase did not offset the South Island decline for many years after 1900; the total number of pigs in New Zealand increased slowly from 1900 to the early 1920s, with a temporary drop during the First World War.
The establishment of the New Zealand Meat Producers' Board in 1922 began a new phase for the pig industry. The Board, with firms interested in developing the export trade, built up a demand in Britain for New Zealand pigmeats. A drive was made to encourage the production of pigs in the dairying districts and particularly the production of porkers (which had been specially praised by the trade) for export. Export killings increased from less than 30,000 in 1922–23 to almost 160,000 in 1928–29 out of a total kill of about 517,000. In the five years from 1924–25 to 1928–29, 82 per cent of the pigmeat produced was consumed locally. Production did not rise again until the depression of the 1930s. Pig-recording clubs had prepared the way for an appreciation of the pig's value in turning what was little more than dairying waste into a profit which helped the dairy farmers to keep solvent. The following table gives some idea of the potential production (and the previous waste of dairy byproducts); the number of pigs slaughtered and the weight of pigmeat produced were doubled in the four years from 1932–33 to 1935–36.