New Label Expected to Drive Welfare Improvements on Danish Pig Farms

DENMARK - Following on from the news that Denmark is introducing a new government-backed animal welfare logo for pork products, ThePigSite gleaned more information from Trine Vig, Chief Advisor, Animal Welfare and Animal Health Policy, Danish Agriculture and Food Council, who was speaking about the logo at the Herning Pig Congress.
calendar icon 7 November 2016
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Read New Pork Label Shows Level of Animal Welfare for background.

The logo was developed in response to the findings of a survey showing the growing consumer concern towards animal welfare.

To consumers, the most important aspects of good welfare are that the animal has no unnecessary suffering, is able to move freely, has space for natural behaviours and is comfortable in transport.

According to the survey, around 70 per cent of Danes are conscious of animal welfare and think about it in purchasing decisions.

However, the higher price for high welfare products is a barrier to buyers, explained Ms Vig.

Another issue is that labels are often unclear or that the high welfare products are not readily available in all stores, Ms Vig continued.

At the Pig Welfare Summit in 2014 it became clear that consumers want more choices. At present there are organic and free range options but these are very expensive. Consumers therefore need the ability to buy a high welfare product but be able to also tailor to their budget, explained Ms Vig.

As well as addressing the needs of the consumer, the welfare label also incorporates some of the welfare goals of the Pig Welfare Summit such as, no tail docking, loose housing for sows, no more than eight hours in transport and straw provided as nesting/rooting material.

Heart Requirements

Taking these issues into consideration, the new logo has been designed to clearly show what level of welfare the pig received.

For farmers to gain one, two or three hearts, there are certain welfare criteria that must be met.

The basic requirements for the welfare label are that tails are not docked, sows are loose-housed, pigs are not in transport for more than eight hours and that straw is dispersed daily as a nesting material.

The additional requirements for each heart are as follows:

One Heart: For one heart the farmer has the option to confine the sow for up to four days during farrowing.

Two Hearts: For two hearts, the sow can only be confined for up to two days. The space requirement compared to the standard requirement is +30 per cent and weaning is for 28 days.

Three Hearts: Three hearts is all of the above and represents free range farming and so farrowing takes place outdoors and weaners and finishers have access to an outside run.

Simplicity for Consumers

To keep the label simple and not over-confusing for consumers, consumers will not need to know the details of what each heart requires, they will simply be able to choose based on how much welfare they are willing to pay for.

Consumers are expected to have high confidence in the logo due to it being government backed.
This is mainly due to the success of other government backed labels.

This market-driven animal welfare label is expected to create a stronger demand for high welfare products, which in turn will help producers improve their farms.

What's Next?

So far, one farm has signed up to the scheme. In March, there will be an EU notification of the resolution so that other countries can choose to use the label when supplying to Denmark.

By May, marketing and sales in stores will begin. Stores will have the ability to choose if they wish to stock all the heart levels or just the one, two or three heart products.

So far all the major Danish retailers have signed up apart from the CO-OP which is already selling organic pork in its own campaign.

Whilst overall the label should help drive further voluntary improvements to welfare on pig farms, it may force farmers to make further improvements, even if their farm already has adequate welfare. This is because consumers may think that products which do not have the logo must therefore have no provision for animal welfare.

The success of this label may also have market implications, as farmers will receive more money in line with more hearts and so more Danish producers may decide to finish pigs at home rather than exporting.

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