Be proud of your pigs and tell your story
Vivi Aarestrup Moustsen, housing & welfare expert contributor from Denmark, notices that marketing antibiotic-free pork is a different story than marketing organic or outdoor reared pigs. Still, it’s necessary to tell their stories too! How do producers in Denmark cope with this?
Photo: Vivi Aarestrup Moustsen.
Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a meeting arranged by an innovative, and not least, proud pig producer, with loose housed lactating sows. He and his colleagues have listened to society and NGO’s asking for more welfare friendly pig housing systems for the last number of years, so they – as pig producers – have invested in loose housing of their lactating sows. However, so far it has been difficult for them to obtain a premium from the abattoirs for their pork, since the abattoirs are challenged regarding carcass balance and getting a premium from the supermarkets. So what to do?
Pork reared without antibiotics
Simple messages are one way. In Denmark, Danish Crown, the cooperative meatpacker, has recently introduced ‘pork reared without antibiotics’ – with the Danish abbreviation ‘OUA’. One of the reasons behind it is public concern regarding the use of antibiotics in livestock production – and the fear of resistant bacteria.
Naturally, the industry welcomes market driven development – instead of development ‘forced’ through because of legislation or possible future legislation – however, it’s not always ‘black and white’.
No antibiotics: a matter of documentation
Many of our pigs are already reared without antibiotics – so you can say OUA is a matter of documentation, and in practice a high level of management in the pig herds with a constant focus on preventive measures such as high levels of hygiene.
The health status of the 30+ million other pigs produced in Denmark every year is high too, and at the same time the use of antibiotics is at very low level in the Danish pig production. Of course animals that need treatment are treated – and information from the on-going monitoring systems ensure that no treated animal is delivered to slaughter with any residues of antibiotics. Maybe pig producers should say this so that the marketing of OUA-pork doesn’t lead to a devaluation of meat from the 29.9 million healthy pigs.
No antibiotics – what is special about it?
What is special about ‘reared without use of antibiotics’? It appeals to most people and it’s easy to communicate – like communicating ‘organic’ or ‘outdoor’. But how do we communicate the more complex changes and developments that the farmers undertake – such as loose housing of lactating sows or reduction of ammonia and odour emissions or use of antibiotics?
Even though it isn’t necessarily easy to produce OUA-pigs, unlike e.g. loose housing of lactating sows, OUA doesn’t request specific housing conditions and can therefore be produced without major investment in production facilities – which is more than you can say about most of the systems needed for loose housing, undocked tails etc.
Difficult to obtain premiums for antibiotic-free pork
NGO’s and politicians ask for higher levels of pig welfare, but this way or these ways of producing pigs appear to be much more difficult to communicate and obtain a premium for.
The farmers whom I met last Friday decided to form a group – and even though they have different pen designs, they all have loose housed lactating sows, and they are proud of it! And it is giving and encouraging to be part of a group that are proud of their business. They agreed to continue to meet – and not the least to tell the positive stories from their barns to the public. To share photos and videos from their herds on Facebook – both within the group but not the least with the public.
Pig farmers gathering together on Facebook
Maybe pig producers across borders should form a Facebook group promoting pigs and pork in a positive way too. There are so many positive stories to be told!
Vivi Aarestrup Moustsen - Pig housing
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