Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 2, Edition 6

New Pig Code: Four things to know

Posted: March 20, 2014

The Code is now finalized but what does it mean for producers and their industry?

After several years of multi-stakeholder discussion and development work, nailing down a new Pig Code for Canada is no small achievement. Here are a few of the keys to the Code, in a nutshell, and where to get more information.

1. Producers commitment. While the work of revising the Code may have ended, the challenge of implementing it has just begun, observes Alberta Pork. "We've all had our input into this document including the Canadian public," says Darcy Fitzgerald, Executive Director. "Now it is time to allow our producers -who are very progressive - to work through those necessary changes in the time allotted."

While there may be different perceptions floating around, the bottom line is this has been a process producers and industry fully participated in along with other stakeholder groups. "This Code isn't something that the government imposed on us," says Fitzgerald. "It reflects our industry's commitment to the animals we care for and the best practices needed to do that."

2. Tipping point to a new generation. Many view the completion of the Code as a major milestone that puts in place an important pillar for a strong and sustainable industry future. "The new Code of Practice is a significant step forward for the Canadian industry," says Florian Possberg, pork producer and Chair of the Code Development Committee. "It is a step that recognizes the healthy and rigorous debate of a diverse group of stakeholders to constructively address pig welfare in Canada. There were many challenges to updating the Code but we worked through them methodically. We took a science-informed focus, looking at what's best for the animals but also reasonable and practical for the industry"

3. Sow housing just one of the key shifts. Highlights of the updated Code include a full commitment to adopt loose housing for sows and gilts in all new facilities built after July 1, 2014. But that's far from all. There are numerous updates including new requirements for pain control and enhanced environmental enrichment. (See the complete Pig Code here).

Catherine Scovil speaks at the Livestock Care Conference, hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care

The Canadian Pork Council, which requested the Code update process, has been closely involved and reacted strongly and positively to the results. "The Canadian Pork Council and its members are proud of the new Pig Code and the credibility the entire process lends to its creation," says Jean-Guy Vincent, Chair of the Canadian Pork Council. "It represents our commitment to the animals in our care, the sustainability of our industry, our ability to work collaboratively with a diverse stakeholder group and the leadership we provide to a global industry."

4. Cost question looms. The Canadian Pork Council's Catherine Scovil, the organization's Associate Executive Director, has been one of the most outspoken throughout the process in highlighting the need to address the "Who pays?" question - an elephant in the room whose time has now arrived.

"The issue of cost sharing can be a sore spot for the industry, since no one has really come to the plate to say 'our consumers want this and we will pay for it,'" Scovil has stated. "If that was the case, converting to new systems would be easier as incentives would be there. But that's not what we're hearing. We need to address this because forced conversions will have farmers exit the industry and that is not the objective of the Code. It's not in anyone's interests to close facilities in Canada and fill the gap with imported product that doesn't have our standards, including welfare standards."

For its part, Alberta Pork has stated that since the entire value chain was involved in driving the new Code, the organization believes the cost of implementing it should be broadly shared. "Progress is important, but can also be pricey," says Darcy Fitzgerald. "It will require that all sectors of the industry participate, from processors to retailers to food service, as well as consumers and humane societies, to support the efforts of producers. We all need to do our part."

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