Ending castration success stories: Belgian retailers switch to castration-free

Retailers and food service operators in Belgium contribute to the ending of surgical castration in various innovative ways. Read their success stories and learn what they did right.

Belgium-based food retail giant launches castration-free pork products
The retailer launched a line of surgical castration-free pork products under its “Better for Everyone” label in June 2018. In promoting this label, the company highlights the benefits of the pig breed used and describes the properties and quality of the meat.

Discount supermarket chain moves to entire males
In 2012, a global retailer’s store chain in Belgium fully transitioned to the sale of meat from entire non-vaccinated pigs.

Supermarket chain adopts immunocastration
The company conducted a trial in 2010 to improve pig welfare by using vaccination against boar taint. It applied the vaccine on approximately 2,600 boars and monitored all production steps from vaccination to meat consumption.

Read more about these retail and food successes to end surgical castration in the PDF below.

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Advantages of ending surgical castration

Farmers, slaughterhouses, food processors, retailers and food service operators alike can benefit from ending surgical castration of piglets. Areas where advantages can be realized are animal welfare, feed efficiency, environment, quality and production.

The fact sheet below, issued by the European Commission, highlights the advantages, alternatives, best practices and success stories of ending surgical castration.

Download the PDF

Video: Benefits of raising entire males from a farmer’s and an operator’s perspective

There are two alternative options for surgical castration while avoiding boar taint. One is to raise entire male pigs and the other is to vaccinate. Both ensure better animal health and welfare, higher meat quality, lower costs, and increased productivity. Pig farmer Mark Tijssen, slaughterhouse operator Derk Oorburg and retail and food service operator Wim van Kemenade elaborate on their experiences in the video below.

Mark Tijssen: Better health, welfare, and efficiency
Pig farmer Mark Tijssen started raising entire males 10 years ago. He finds them much more efficient than castrated ones, while animal welfare and health are also better. To reduce boar taint, he keeps clean stables and uses the right feeding components. To be successful in the future, he needs the commitment from all partners in the chain.

Derk Oorburg (Vion Food Group): The entire chain contributes, from farm to fork
Because the market required higher animal welfare standards and there was more demand for leaner meat, Derk’s company decided to start slaughtering entire males. The success of this lies in the entire chain, from farm to fork. High quality in the slaughter process is an important contributing factor.

Wim van Kemenade (Sourcing Manager at Albert Heijn): Less feed, same amount of meat
The meat from entire males is leaner, which meets dietary requirements for many consumers. Entire males are efficient growers as well: they produce more meat with the same food intake. So, it takes less feed to make the meat you need. Lastly, because no surgery is needed on the piglet, raising entire males raises the bar for animal welfare.

Educational materials on alternative methods to surgical pig castration

The EU Animal Welfare Platform held its ninth meeting on June 22, 2021. One of the topic was alternative methods to surgical pig castration. At the Platform meeting information was provided on educational material supporting the dissemination of best practices in the production, the processing and the marketing of meat from entire male pigs or pigs vaccinated against boar taint.

The education material included twelve factsheets in twenty-four languages and one video addressing the whole production chain in English language and with subtitles in twenty-two languages. USB sticks for dissemination are available.

Themes the educational material focusses on are:

Download here the presentation.

French producers shift to entire male piglets

Ten French producer organizations will process and market pork from uncastrated male piglets. ln a letter addressed to their breeders, Agrial, Eureden, Elpo, Evel’up, GRPPO, Porcineo, Porélia, Syproporcs, Porveo, and Porc Armor Evolution state that they will apply this measure as of January 1st, 2022.

“The basic price will be the average price of the population of female pigs, entire males and not non-castrated males as is currently the case.”ª The group stresses that that pig carcasses must be tested for boar taint in the slaughterhouses under the responsibility of Uniporc-Ouest. They propose that the costs related to this quality control should be financed through a dedicated contribution from pork butchers working with farms that have stopped castration.

This declaration of intent follows the goal of the Minister of Agriculture, Didier Guillaume, to ban live surgical castration of male piglets, as from December 31st, 2021. One of the solutions envisaged is castration under anesthesia. But according to the engineers of the IFIP-institut du porc who tested this method, it is not 100% effective.

The risk of producing carcasses with sexual boar taint requires detection at the slaughterhouse. To date, only the “human nose” technique has been developed and proved effective in detecting boar taint. The method is used routinely in the abattoirs of Cooperl and is being further developed in the Netherlands. It remains to be seen whether the slaughterhouses which have not yet shifted to slaughtering entire male pigs will accept the human nose technique as a proven method.

The advantages of stopping castration are eliminating the handling of piglets in the farrowing unit, and preserving their physical integrity. Next to improved animal welfare, banning castration improves technical performance in fattening, notably by reducing the feed conversion ratio and improving the percentage of lean meat.

Read more about this declaration here, for more information on boar taint detection methods, check out our topic page.

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