under observation

How committed are they to the welfare of pigs?

We have analysed public communications of some large cured meat and specialty producers to see if and how they are committed to improving the breeding conditions of sows and pigs for meat production, by starting to phase out the causes of greatest suffering.
The 11 criteria used for the evaluation are linked to the requests of our SOSPig campaign.

Overall assessment
Cages for sows
Environmental enrichments and comfort
Use of antibiotics
Third-party certification covering the above-mentioned standards
Casa Modena
Fratelli Beretta

⚠️ Company mentions animal welfare, but continues to raise sows in cages

No commitment

Partial commitment to eliminate a certain practice

Full commitment to eliminate a certain practice

How did we do the evaluations?

  • Cages for sows
    • By law, sows can be kept in cages for the first month of pregnancy and for the entire duration of lactation: almost half of their lives, which they spend in cages so narrow that their movement is restricted to getting up and lying down; they are not even able to turn around. As recognised by EFSA, this breeding system is deeply detrimental to the well-being of sows because it prevents them from moving, expressing their natural behaviours, and interacting freely with their piglets.
      The objective of this area of evaluation is to evaluate whether companies have made public commitments to eliminate the confinement of sows in cages during pregnancy and lactation.
  • Environmental enrichments and comfort
    • Pigs and sows have an innate instinct to express their natural behaviours, in particular that of foraging, i.e. exploring the surrounding environment in search of food. If they do not have access to substrates with which to express these behaviours, they often redirect their attention to other animals in the pen, for example by biting their tails. In addition to the expression of these behaviours, pigs also need to be guaranteed a certain level of comfort because they spend most of their time lying down to rest.
      This area of evaluation aims to assess whether companies are committed to provide the sows and pigs for meat production with appropriate materials to encourage the expression of natural behaviours, and with bedding on the floor to ensure adequate comfort. Straw is the material that pigs prefer, but other combinations of materials may also be appropriate, as long as they are edible, chewable, and can be rooted. Due to the high rate of non-compliance among Italian farms with the current legislation on environmental enrichments, generic communications that do not clearly specify which materials are supplied to the pigs have not been considered as valid commitments.
  • Mutilations
    • Very often, due to inadequate breeding conditions, pigs may develop aggressive behaviours. In order to limit this issue, they are subject to mutilations that cause great suffering, such as tail docking or teeth clipping. Ensuring a better environment for animals helps prevent the need for mutilation and animal suffering, which is why it is important to evaluate the companies’ commitment to prohibiting tail docking and teeth clipping.
      Another widespread mutilation in farming is the castration of male pigs, carried out to prevent the meat from smelling bad. Unfortunately at the moment it is not easy to identify alternatives to surgical castration that avoid any type of suffering to the animals and are ready to be applied on a commercial scale in the Italian context. For this reason the issue of castration has not been included in this evaluation, but we will continue to work so that this practice too is eliminated as soon as possible.
  • Use of antibiotics
    • As indicated by many international bodies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the OIE, the only way to counter the spread of antibiotic resistance is to use antibiotics responsibly, avoiding prophylactic treatments and treating only sick animals when needed. Furthermore, for the purposes of this evaluation, a complete commitment to the responsible use of antibiotics must also include a strong limitation/elimination on the use of antibiotics considered to be critical for human health.
      To be completely effective, the policy on the responsible use of antibiotics must be accompanied by a monitoring plan on actual consumption on farms, a fundamental step in defining progressive reduction targets.
  • Certifications
    • In the absence of specific company policies, any claims of adherence to independent certification schemes are not considered as valid indications of the presence of a company policy on individual topics. In fact, companies should first have their own policy and then choose the most suitable certification to verify compliance with it, without the risk that farming conditions could suddenly change if the certification scheme changes its standards.
      Once a company policy has been set, verifying on-farm compliance through third-party audit is a crucial step, which is why a criteria focusing on this aspect has been included in the evaluation. Only those certifications whose standards are publicly available and which cover more than half of the points listed in our evaluation were considered valid. For those companies that refer to external certifications, we also contacted the certification bodies to verify which criteria were included: only KIWA replied by sharing their auditing criteria, while CSQA, SGS, DNV and DQA did not provide any answer.
  • Evaluations and references
    • To encourage transparency, only company communications that are publicly available on their websites (web pages, sustainability reports, press releases, etc.) were evaluated. Communications on social networks have not been taken into consideration because a fundamental element of transparency is that any information is easily accessible in a few clicks, which is not possible by scrolling through posts on a social network page.
      In the absence of specific company policies, generic statements of compliance with current regulations are not considered valid commitments by the company. This is not only because current legislation does not cover all the critical elements of welfare for sows and pigs, but also because companies should be responsible for clearly defining what their standards are and verifying compliance with them, without the risk that these may worsen over time in the event that the law were to be repealed or amended.



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