Animal Ethics Dilemma


An internet-based learning resource, which can be used by teachers and students as part of an animal ethics course.

Driving Pigs to Stunning


Welcome to this learning resource on the pre-slaughter handling of pigs and its effect on meat quality and animal welfare.

Life Cycle Assessment


Welcome to this learning resource on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in the pork chain. When addressing the sustainability of meat production, environmental impact is a major concern. In general, meat has higher environmental costs than proportionally similar amounts of, for example, bread or vegetables. However, this also varies according to the different types of meat. To give an example, 1 kg of beef or lamb has considerably higher CO2 costs than 1 kg of pork, which is comparable in CO2 costs to chicken meat. In order to quantify the environmental impact of different types of food, a proper evaluation tool is needed. LCA is such a tool; it evaluates all stages in the life of a product, in terms of the environmental impact of each stage, from feed production, housing of pigs and manure handling, to slaughter, meat processing, distribution etc. Consequently LCA is a tool for identifying 'hot spots' in the food chain and it gives producers and food companies an opportunity to identify options to mitigate these hot spots and thereby improve the environmental profile of their products.

In this learning resource LCA is considered in relation to the pork production chain. First there is discussion of some general aspects of food production in relation to environmental issues, giving examples of emissions, and applying impact categories for 'global warming', 'acidification' and 'eutrophication'. This is explained by showing how different emissions are calculated, using equivalent factors for each impact category, and describing the contribution of different types of foods to global warming. To illustrate the concept, an example is then presented from the production chain for Danish pork, including results that show which parts of the pork chain make the highest contribution to the carbon footprint. Important terms used in LCA are listed and the process of carrying out an LCA is briefly explained.

At the end of the learning resource four different pig production systems are illustrated by video clips. Using figures from these systems, you have the opportunity to visualise and compare the environmental impact of these systems. Throughout the learning resource interactive exercises are used to enable you to understand the environmental impact of food production and the use of LCA as a tool.

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


The learning resource is available in Portuguese

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