Entire Male Pigs


Welcome to this learning resource on entire male pigs!

It has been known since the Middle Ages that meat from a small minority (up to 10 %) of entire male pigs has an unpleasant odour, the so-called boar taint. The sensibility to boar taint is different between consumers and it can only be detected by some of the consumers and mainly when the pork is heated (Støier, 2010).

Problems with boar taint are nevertheless the primary reason for castration being routinely performed on the majority of male pigs in commercial meat production. Castration also results in reduced aggressive and sexual behaviour between pigs and a higher proportion of fat in carcasses.

Entire male pigs are preferred for meat production for several reasons. They are more efficient than castrates at converting feed into lean meat and, because they are slaughtered at an earlier age, they have less negative impact on the environment. However, castration has economic drawbacks in that it impairs growth for some days after surgery and involves extra labour. In recent years knowledge about the pain and animal welfare issues related to castration, and consumer concerns, have focused greater attention on the castration of male pigs.

In this learning resource we will explain the reasons for boar taint, consider methods of detecting and measuring boar taint, and discuss the alternatives to castration. The point of departure is that all stakeholders prefer entire male pigs with high meat quality, rather than castrated pigs. We will discuss the dilemma of poor welfare associated with castration (pain and risk to the health of the animals) and the poor welfare of uncastrated pigs farmed in confined spaces (stress and fighting, resulting in skin lesions and ultimately carcass damage).

The scientific report on the animal welfare aspects of the castration of piglets has been peer-reviewed by the members of the Scientific Panel for Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The report was adopted in 2004.

Animal Welfare-friendly Pig Housing Systems


Welcome to this learning resource on animal welfare-friendly pig housing systems. The way we produce pigs for pork consumption is of great concern. Animal welfare legislation and the means of enforcing it are becoming clearer and more powerful.

This learning resource is based on an inventory of 108 pork production systems in the EU and competing countries and a survey on consumer attitudes to pork production that was conducted in 2008. It includes examples from six different production systems in two countries, France and Sweden. The systems are described from economic, technical and animal welfare perspectives. It has a strong focus on video clips from different pig production systems.

The first video about pigs in a semi-natural environment includes clips showing pig behaviour in semi-natural conditions and in different commercial systems in Sweden, the UK and Denmark. Interviews with researchers, politicians and farmers are also included. This video is about 20 minutes long.

After this introduction the learning resource is divided into sections according to the production stage of the pig. For each production stage a number of different commercial pig production systems are presented - conventional systems and systems with a focus on animal welfare-friendly pig housing. Every system is presented with video clips and production figures. By exploring the material you will learn more about the mechanisms behind the different behaviours of the pig and what should be taken into account when building housing systems.

The scientific reports on the animal welfare aspects of different housing and husbandry systems are peer-reviewed by the members of the Scientific Panel for Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The report on adult breeding boars, pregnant and farrowing sows, and unweaned piglets was adopted in 2007 and the report on weaners and rearing pigs was adopted in 2005.

Animal Welfare-friendly Pig Housing Systems


The learning resource is available in Portuguese

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