This Week's Pig News Round–Up

6 February 2012, at 11:56pm

ANALYSIS - One of the largest pig meat producers in the EU has announced its plans to raise pig welfare standards at home, which will push up pork prices, and to seek expansion possibilities in China, writes Jackie Linden, senior editor of ThePigSite.Only three EU member states are already prepared for the partial sow stalls next January, and another four are expected to be fully compliant by the deadline. One of the top pig companies in the US has announced it will do away with its sow stalls by 2017.

An article in a German economics magazine recently highlighted two important trends in the European meat production business: a focus on improving animal welfare at home in the EU, whilst looking for expansion possibilities in developing markets.

WirtschaftsWoche carried at interview with Clemens Tönnies, board chief of Tönnies, one of Germany's largest pig slaughterhouse, who highlighted two important issues for the future of his company's business: the need for pig producers at home to improve further the rearing conditions for their animals and its plans for expansion in China.

Speaking on the need to raise pig welfare, Mr Tönnies explained that his company has established a new staff position, directly under the board, which is entirely focused on animal welfare. The appointee is responsible for defining the ideal housing conditions for breeding and growing pigs and the company will go to farmers with these specifications.

The new standards are expected to add around €20 to the cost of producing each pig. This will make pig meat a little more expensive but he says the extra cost is justified.

Mr Tönnies described his company's intention to undergo massive expansion in China after establishing a joint venture there. He wants to establish a nationwide network of large cutting plants across the country, supplying some of the pork from Germany.

The aim of Tönnies's involvement in China is to restructure the meat supply chain. Currently, meat is distributed right across the country, mostly unrefrigerated, by moped by middle men. Tönnies wants to make the conditions more hygienic.

Continuing on the theme of animal welfare in the EU, the pig industry can learn some interesting lessons from egg industry's experiences over the last month or so as a ban on conventional battery cages came into force on 1 January, despite a lack of preparedness across many EU countries.

Looking ahead 11 months to the partial ban on sow stalls across the EU, it has been reported that only three countries – United Kingdom, Sweden and Luxembourg – are already compliant with the news rules. A further four countries – Ireland, Lithuania, Denmark and Germany – will have switched to loose housing in time for the deadline but what of the other 20 countries? Can we expect to hear the same weak excuses for a lack of investment in those countries as the midnight hour approaches?

Of course, the situation will not be helped if pig prices continue to fall across the EU.

Possibly as the result of pressure from welfare organisations in the US, an ending to sow stalls has been announced by Hormel by 2017 but no such plans have yet been reported by Tyson Foods.

Turning to diseases, foot and mouth disease (FMD) has been reported in pigs at two farms in Taiwan. In the Krasnodar Kray region of Russia, the deaths of three wild boar found dead were investigated and found to be due to African swine fever (ASF), which also caused more than 7,400 pigs to be culled on two neighbouring farms when the infection was discovered there.