There are 13.5 million breeding sowsin the EU-27 producing 22 million tonnes of pig meat from just over 248 million finished pigs (Eurostat, 2010). Germany is by far the largest producer, followed by Spain (Figure 1).
Consumer perception of pig meat production
Animal welfare is an increasingly important factor in the purchasing decisions of consumers (Napolitano et al., 2010), sustained despite the prevailing recession (IGD, 2011). Recent surveys indicated almost half of UK consumers surveyed rated animal welfare as either ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’ (IGD, 2011), whilst 76% (Defra, 2011) and 85% (Clonan et al., 2010) rated welfare as ‘an important’ issue. In fact, farm animal welfare was rated the single most important sustainability related food issue for British consumers (IGD, 2011; Defra, 2011), above health or safety concerns. Over 70% of U.S citizens surveyed also reported ‘concern’ forfarm animal welfare (Norwood and Lusk, 2011a). Pigs were identified amongst the three animal systems most in need of animal welfare improvements by EU citizens (European Commission, 2005).
How welfare schemes compare to Compassion's criteria for higher welfare - Pigs
The Food Business team has recently produced comprehensive tables comparing various welfare schemes with Compassion’s criteria for higher animal welfare.
Compassion analysed 34 initiatives, across 10 countries and 4 species (broiler chickens, laying hens, sows and meat pigs and dairy cows and calves) to understand which ones meet Compassion’s criteria for higher animal welfare.
China Case Study - Group Housing for Sows
How a large Chinese pig production company is achieving positive productivity by providing higher welfare inputs to its system.
Fumagalli (Italy) Free Farrowing Case Study
Case study about supply chain partners Waitrose, their UK supplier Winterbotham Darby and their Italian partner Fumagalli, and how they are running a commercially successful free farrowing system in Italy’s pig sector.
Dent Ltd – Leaders in Pig Welfare
As animal welfare becomes more important to many consumers, farmers are increasingly turning to higher welfare pig production systems to meet demand.
Dent Ltd (now under new ownership) is a perfect example of pork producers who are committed to ensuring a high quality of life for their pigs. For its outstanding achievements, the company was presented with a Leadership in Pig Welfare award in 2011.
In 2011, Dent was responsible for approximately 100,000 finishing pigs at any one time, bred and reared in farms across the North West of England. As part of its strict quality control, the welfare of each and every one of the pigs that pass through its system was inherent.
The company operates several outdoor sow units, with weaned pigs housed in spacious straw-based barns. Both systems provide sows and pigs with plenty of space and freedom to root and perform their natural behaviours. Sows are kept in stable groups to ensure levels of aggression are kept to a minimum and piglets are not tail docked or teeth-clipped.
Individual farrowing is operated on all sites to minimise aggression and cross suckling. Piglets remain inside the farrowing hut for the first week to encourage maternal bonding and ensure good colostrum intake. Individual farrowing enables the farmer to feed each sow independently and so maintain body condition.
Despite not teeth-clipping, the piglets do not have problems with facial lesions and sows do not suffer udder damage. They breed their own White Duroc crossed with Large White/Landrace sows which produce on average 10 piglets per litter. The smaller litter and good sow condition alleviate potential facial and udder damage issues.
On average weaning takes place when the eldest piglets are 28 days old and weighing around 7.5kg. Pre-wean mortality is around 12-13%. Piglets are weaned into straw based buildings with kennels at around 0.8m2/pig until they reach 40kg. The pigs are then moved into large straw barns and given 1.5m² each until they reach slaughter weight of 110kg.
Despite not tail docking, they rarely have incidences of tail biting. Space, appropriate natural ventilation and plenty of manipulable material such as daily fresh straw and play objects keep the pigs fully occupied and help reduce the risk of tail biting. Careful consideration is also given to the number and position of drinkers and feeders as well as ambient temperature, which in turn also reduces the risk of tail biting.
Compassion in World Farming’s Leadership in Pig Welfare award in 2011 recognised producers and companies that are demonstrating significant achievements relating to the non-confinement of sows, and the elimination of tail docking or tooth clipping or grinding in meat pigs. The Leadership Award was a precursor to the Good Pig Award which was launched in 2012.
Compassion in World Farming offers free, objective advice and consultancy from a team of staff who work across the whole of the food industry. To find out more about how we can help you improve welfare standards for your pigs, please contact us.
Waitrose QR Codes – delivering welfare messages
Waitrose has a unique relationship with its farmers, supporting British agriculture in the care of animals to deliver superb quality through the highest welfare standards
European Farmers Network case studies
Animal welfare concerns are now well recognised by the public, food companies, governments and farmers. However, in many instances, there is no significant volume of alternative supplies of food for consumers to buy. To meet this challenge in a sustainable manner on farms, the most practical solutions will be primarily driven by farmers for farmers.
The European Farmers Network (EFN) was a partnership established between Compassion in World Farming (Compassion) and the FAI (Food Animal Initiative) in 2008-2011. The network brought together a values-driven association of farmers across Europe who believe that higher animal welfare is an essential part of sustainable agriculture.
The focus of the EFN was to bring together farmers who were willing to lead by example, demonstrating solutions to a wide audience.
A number of EFN case studies are available including:
- Brydock Farms: Pigs with a tail to tell – Taking the lead in validating a commercial system for producing pigs with full tails.
- Walking free of footrot – Lameness can be time consuming to treat on a case-by-case basis, but a new protocol looks set to offer a practical approach to prevention.
- HWIS: A brighter future for broilers – Why Higher Welfare Indoor Systems offer benefits to both birds and farmers
- Happy Graze – Is monitoring grass growth the key to by-passing rising feed costs?
- Milk from grass: a genuine alternative – The case for boosting utilisation of grass and reducing reliance on cereals.