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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Ending castration success stories: Entire males in France and vaccination in Spain and Poland

Farmers and pork producers in France, Spain and Poland are doing their share to end surgical castration. Read their success stories and learn how they went about it.

Entire males in France
The leading pork producer in France integrates farming, feed manufacturing, slaughtering and meat processing. In 2013, it transitioned to the production of entire males, serving their meat to 13 million consumers each year.

Vaccination protocol to produce cured hams in Spain
In Spain, there are successes to share as well. Farmers in this country vaccinate Iberian pigs against boar taint to produce cured hams. Vaccination has improved profitability and animal welfare while maintaining high product quality.

Polish producer sees impressive results with vaccine
A Polish producer who uses a safe and reliable vaccine has had success slaughtering animals at around 8-9 weeks after the second vaccination. This maximises their revenues.

Read more about these successes to transition away from 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.

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Reducing boar taint risk in entire males

Reducing the risk of boar taint in entire males is essential for realizing market acceptance of meat from non-castrated pigs. The European Commission shared a fact sheet designed for pig supply chains, in order to help them grapple with this topic.

In the fact sheet below, the European Commission shares best practices and techniques with regard to feed, housing, breeding and slaughter, as well as benefits and success stories.

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.

Brocéliande organic pig breeders no longer castrate pigs

Most of the organic pig breeders at Brocéliande, part of the large French pork cooperative Cooperl, have chosen to no longer castrate their pigs. The combination of organic pig farming without castration is unique in France and elsewhere. Click here to read more about the commitment of a part of Brocéliande breeders to a qualitative approach to breeding.

Brocéliande consists of 256 breeders in the western part of France. They are committed to a qualitative approach to breeding. They focus on respect for animal welfare, protection of the environment and the fight against antibiotic resistance. A decent salary for the breeders and the employees of the cooperative is also a focus point. 

No castration, no antibiotics

They call their pigs ‘Bien Élevées’ or ‘well-raised’ because they come from quality chains. Some of Brocéliande’s cooperative breeders are now engaged in breeding without antibiotics, while others are engaged in breeding without antibiotics or pesticides, or in organic breeding. Some of Brocéliandes organic breeders have chosen to no longer castrate their pigs, which is a first in France. “This is a way for them to respect the animals’ physical integrity, it helps to reduce stress and the natural resistance against diseases”, according to a spokesperson.

The organic part of Brocéliande consists of 24 farmers committed to good food for consumers and to a sustainable farming method for the planet, for animals and for people. Their pigs are raised according to French organic specifications and their farms are monitored and evaluated according to 130 animal welfare requirements.

Click here to go to the original article.

Fact sheets on ending surgical boar castration

The European Commission produced educational materials to help farmers, meat processors and retailers transitioning away from surgical castration of pigs, including factsheets on ending surgical castration and methods to detect boar taint. The PDF’s below are a schematic representation of both subjects.

In the first PDF, techniques and best practices for slaughterhouses for the detection of boar taint are presented. One of the most successful methods is the human nose method.

In the second PDF, the Commission shares a success story about a leading Dutch slaughterhouse that developed its own boar taint detection technique, based on the human nose method. With over 10 years of experience in producing boar meat, this EU market leader operates in several countries, slaughtering thousands of male pigs each week.

Open PDF 1
Open PDF 2

New detection method

To meet consumer demands for high quality pork it is necessary to sort out pig carcasses containing a high concentration of the two compounds that are the cause of boar taint: skatole and androstenone.

DMRI is focusing on methods and technologies for efficient production of safe meat products of high quality at competitive prices. Therefore they have developed and validated a method for the simultaneous measurement of skatole and androstenone in back fat samples from entire male pigs. This method fulfils pre-defined demands for accuracy, speed and low cost. The method is currently in the process of being implemented.

The method also makes it possible to determine the level of boar taint compounds in e.g. a subsample of entire male pigs delivered to the slaughterhouse with the aim of investigating differences in boar taint compounds according to breed, producer, feeding regime etc.

Read more on the Danish Meat Research Institute, or view the DMRI slaughterhouse guide to the production of entire male pigs.

Read more about detection methods on our topic page.

Is the market ready?

At the IPEMA conference Gé Backus presented the current situation regarding market acceptance of meat from non-castrated animals. As entire male pigs are leaner and tend to have less back fat and a less desirable fatty acid composition, realizing market acceptance depends not only on boar taint, but also on backfat thickness and fat quality of the entire male pig carcass.

The presentation concluded that only supply chain wide solutions will really help to create market acceptance. Pork supply chains are better and better equipped to become successful. The majority of the market is ready for pork supply chains that apply adequate boar taint detection and that supply products that meet the specifications for backfat thickness and fat quality of the entire male pig meat. However, there are still some loose ends. The potential of available knowledge is not fully utilized, and the role of feeding as a direction for a solution is not clear enough.

Click here to view a pdf of the presentation, or watch the full IPEMA webinar here.

Read more about market acceptance on our topic page. 

Picture: RitaE

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