Buy organic or free-range, or look for ‘outdoor bred’ and ‘outdoor reared’ on the label. Look out for our Good Pig Award Winners.
Organic production can offer animals higher welfare. In the UK organic pigs are outdoor reared (with access to straw bedded huts or tents and large paddocks). Sows and boars are kept in outdoor systems throughout life.
Be aware, organic in other countries does not necessarily mean the same as for the UK. Organic pigs may only have access to an outdoor run in some European countries.
Whilst there is no legal definition of ‘free-range pork’ we believe this should mean pigs who are born and reared in outdoor systems throughout their lives, with permanent access to pasture.
As from 1st January 2013, individual stall housing for dry sows beyond a period of 4 weeks after service is no longer permissible in any EU Member State. Compliance however is low in some countries.
Sow stalls have been fully banned (i.e. throughout the entire gestation period) and not used in the UK since 1999. However, farrowing crates can still be used and pigs may be reared indoors in intensive systems without bedding. UK assurance schemes do not permit castration but allow tooth clipping and tail docking under certain circumstances.
'Outdoor bred' means the pigs are born in outdoor systems in straw bedded arks with access to a large outdoor paddock. The pigs are brought indoors for growing and finishing at or shortly after weaning - usually into straw bedded systems in large airy barns or purpose built buildings. The growing and finishing system should be clearly stated on the label. The sows remain in the outdoor system throughout their life.
'Outdoor reared' means the pigs are born and then reared in outdoor systems for around half their lives. During this time they may not necessarily have access to pasture, but will have access to an outside pen and a straw bedded tent or ark. The sows remain in the outdoor system throughout their life.
Higher welfare indoor systems
If you buy any pig meat product (for example pork, bacon, sausages or ham) from pigs reared indoors look for 'straw bedded' or 'deep bedded' on the packaging. Straw is very important for pigs; it provides opportunities to root and forage, so that they don’t get bored. Bored and frustrated pigs can bite each other’s tails and causes farmers to tail dock piglets – a painful procedure carried out without anaesthetic. Straw is also good for thermal comfort.
Check the ingredients of sandwiches, ready-meals etc. – unless it says the pork, bacon, ham or sausage used is free-range, outdoor bred or reared it probably isn’t.
Good Pig Awards
Our awards recognise companies that commit to using higher welfare pig production systems throughout their supply chain, ensuring non confinement and additional space for sows, manipulable material and bedding, such as straw, throughout the lives of sows and meat pigs, and no mutilations for meat pigs.