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Supermarkets must safeguard core pork production

by 5m Editor
11 May 2007, at 11:35am

UK - Outdoor production may have consumer friendly connotations for the retail trade, but supermarkets should be very careful not to forget their core production - indoor herds, said NPA members at thier latest producer group meeting.

Members were concerned that while outdoor pigs presented an attractive welfare-friendly picture, which the public likes, it was not the complete picture and retailers needed to understand that the outdoor sector could not serve their market, adequately.

“I have explained to the retailers that there is a limit to how many outdoor pigs we can have as an industry, because they can only be kept on the right land,” said NPA and BPEX chairman Stewart Houston.

However, NPA feels that the preference for outdoor production is causing a quandary which needs to be addressed.

On the surface, piglet mortality rates on outdoor herds look comparable with indoor units. But this may not be entirely correct. Recorded figures for indoor herds tend to be more accurate. It is more difficult to gather precise information outside.

One producer at the meeting said he had made an honest attempt to record outdoor mortality and had come up with a figure of 18%.

Lambast

There is some concern that the data that is publicly available from BPEX could be used by those who do not fully understand the background to lambast the industry.

However, BPEX chief executive Mick Sloyan does not agree. He said that the solution was to make the statistics more transparent, so that a proper accurate picture was available.

For example, if outdoor mortality figures were being used to illustrate the lack of need for farrowing crates for indoor sows. "Perhaps BPEX should undertake a small project to find out the real situation on outdoor mortality and/or how to make accurate recording easier," he said.

Mr Houston said also retailers needed to understand why farrowing crates were so very important - they had more to offer pig welfare than perceived - without them piglet injury and mortality would increase significantly. He said that supermarkets and consumers had to rea lise that they were a short-term system and sows were only housed this way for a few weeks, not their entire lives.

This explanation has already been given to one major multiples and having heard the facts, it had decided not to pursue the farrowing crates line, he added.

5m Editor