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### Abstract

Increasing competitive pressures as well as growing requirements with regard to quality and safety pose a continuous challenge for farmers in European agrifood netchains. Against this background, the significance of network‐wide collaboration has been pointed out in recent years – especially for German livestock farming (Petersen et al., 2007). In the literature, it is generally agreed that participation in specialized networks can be beneficial to the competitiveness of individual farms and firms (Gellynck, Vermeire and Viaene, 2006). The northwestern part of Germany – known to be one of Europe’s major centres of pig production – apparently provides good structural preconditions for farms’ and firms’ comprehensive network participation due to an agglomeration of potential interaction partners specialized in pork production. Nonetheless, empirical studies show that, despite these good preconditions, farmers’ participation in networks is often limited. Spiller et al. (2005) for instance, found weaknesses with regard to relationship quality between pig fattening farmers and slaughterhouses. This might be due to power inequalities as well as manifold principal‐agent relationships in food supply chains characterized by information asymmetries and utility‐maximizing behaviour that limits cooperation between supply chain partners and reduces transparency of food supply chains (Theuvsen, 2004; Hingley, 2005; Deimel, Frentrup and Theuvsen, 2008).