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Banff Pork Seminar 2012

Danish company gives inside look at European animal welfare management

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Date posted: January 19, 2012

Henrik Baekstrom Lauritsen

A leading Danish food company told players from the Canadian pork industry attending the 2012 Banff Pork Seminar that the role of animal welfare is increasing in Europe, rapidly adding costs, increasing competitive disadvantage and in some cases creating opportunity.

Henrik Baekstrom Lauritsen of Tican, says an increasing media focus and consumer pressure is leading to new animal welfare legislation in many European countries. And a new European Union directive lays down new common legislation on pig welfare. Tican, is the second largest slaughterhouse in Denmark, marketing to approximately 40 countries around the world.

Denmark operates with five levels of welfare, each with progressively stricter standards, explains Lauritsen. Here's a snapshot of what is required under each.

Level 1, General Danish production. Stalls for dry sows are banned as of Jan. 1, 2013 (70 percent are already in loose housing). Rooting material must be supplied. Grower pigs must have cooling facilities, partly slatted flooring effective Jan. 1, 2015, and rooting material must be supplied.

Level 2, UK Welfare Production. Sows must be grouped from weaning to seven days prior to farrowing. Rooting material provided. Grower pigs need cooling facilities. Fully slatted floors are not allowed after Jan. 1, 2015, and rooting material must be provided.

Level 3, Freedom Foods. Group housing from weaning to seven days prior to farrowing. Sows must be able to move and turn during farrowing until weaning. Crates are not permitted. Grower pigs need lower stocking density, bedding, cooling facilities and no castration.

Level 4, Free Range. Farrowing sows are held outside in huts with 1,000 square meters of grassland. Minimum five weeks weaning. Dry sows and sows for service must be in groups with access to an outdoor area. Bedding must be provided. Grower pigs must have 30 percent more area than the general Danish production. Bedding and access to outdoor runs must be provided. No tail docking.

Level 5, Organic. Farrowing sows must be held outdoors in huts, with 1,200 square meters of grassland per sow. Minimum seven weeks of weaning. Sows for service must be in groups. During summer dry sows must be on grassland and during winter must be in groups with access to outdoor areas. Bedding and roughage must be provided. Grower pigs must have 3.5 times the space of the general Danish production. No tail docking. Minimum of 50 percent solid flooring. Bedding, access to outdoor runs with maximum of 50 percent covered by roof. Roughage is required and after 2014, no castration will be allowed.

These higher care standards add between $4.15 to as high as $180.30 to per animal production costs, says Lauritsen, and anywhere from $5.75 to $210.30 premium. The challenge is that countries that require higher welfare standards do not want to buy the whole carcass, meaning other parts must be sold to buyers where welfare is not an important selling point. That means losing competitive advantage in those markets.

The future is even more demanding, says Lauritsen. By 2013 all dry sows must be in loose housing and by 2020 all sows in the service unit must be loose, with no stalls allowed. A complete ban on castration will come into force in 2018 and the Danish government has set a goal of all farrowing sows in loose housing by 2030.

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