Gé Backus presented an overview of the work of the international voluntary subgroup on ending piglet castration on the June 16th meeting of the European Animal Welfare Platform. He concluded that although there are still some open ends, ending castration is a potential win-win-win issue: for the animal, for the farmer and for the environment.
Boars on the Way in cooperation with Pig Progress hosted a webinar on the environmental impact of keeping entire boars. The webinar was broadcast on Thursday, February 23, and can be reviewed in its entirety through www.pigprogress.net. In this webinar, Gé Backus explains the background of the study on the carbon footprint of entire male pigs. In addition, Mathieu Pecqueur explains on behalf of French agricultural cooperative Cooperl how they are dealing with the matter of castration and also well-known pig producer Annechien ten Have-Mellema from the Netherlands is sharing her experiences with raising boars.
The impact of ending castration of entire male pigs in Europe is explained in a two minutes YouTube animation. Ending piglet castration is better for the animal, saves money for the farmers and results in a lower carbon footprint.
Ending piglet castration in the EU results in a lower footprint of in total 4.4 million ton CO2 equivalents per year. Producing boars instead of barrows results in a better feed utilization and thus a lower footprint. The estimated carbon footprint of entire male pigs ranged from 3.57 to 4.00 kg CO2 equivalents per kg live wight, and from 3.93 to 4.28 kg CO2 equivalents per kg live weight for castrated male pigs. This equals to 300.000 ha land use annually saved.
Online surveys were performed with 11,294 consumers from ten EU and four non-EU countries. Four consumer segments were identified: Demanding, Average, Low-on eco, and Indifferent. It is concluded that consumer consumption motives and production preferences are sufficiently similar to include them as communicative elements in marketing strategies for meat from non-castrated pigs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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