Resources for self-learning

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.

Control of Salmonella in Pig Farms


Welcome to this learning resource on control of Salmonella in pig farms.

Animal Health at Farm Level: PMWS and PRRS


Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and Post-weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) are two of the most important diseases affecting pig production. They are both viral disease and were first noticed roughly 20 years ago. The initial cases of both diseases followed changes in husbandry and intensification of pig production in both North America and Europe, and it is now thought that specific farming practices led to the spread and subsequent increase in severity of these diseases. The practices included implementation of indoor production systems, increases in herd size and stocking density, early weaning and abrupt changes from milk to creep feed at weaning. These, combined with changes in environmental factors such as temperature and relative humidity in pens that can affect herd hygiene, were key aspects in the emergence of the diseases. It is thought that the PRRS virus and PCV2 (the causal agent of PMWS) had been present in pig herds for decades if not centuries before the diseases emerged, and the viruses slowly mutated into disease-causing forms. In earlier times, pigs were kept on small-scale farm and successful transmission of the disease was less likely, if not impossible.

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.

Fundamentals of Meat's Water Holding Capacity


Welcome to this learning resource on fundamentals of water holding capacity (WHC) of meat!

This learning resource consists of six sections:

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.

Low salt pig-meat products and novel formulations


A learning resource on Low salt pig-meat products and novel formulations.

Strategic New Product Development


OER on the process for new product development (NPD) with implications for the European pork sector.