Impact of Animal Welfare on Costs and Viability of Pig Production in the UK

Bornett, H. L. I.; Guy, J. H. and Cain, P. J. (2003). Impact of Animal Welfare on Costs and Viability of Pig Production in the UK. Journal of Agricultural Ethics, 16(2) pp. 163–186.



The European Union welfare standards for intensively kept pigs have steadily increased over the past few years and are proposed to continue in the future. It is important that the cost implications of these changes in welfare standards are assessed. The aim of this study was to determine the profitability of rearing pigs in a range of housing systems with different standards for pig welfare. Models were constructed to calculate the cost of pig rearing (6–95 kg) in a fully-slatted system (fulfilling minimum EU space requirements, Directive 91630/EEC); a partly-slatted system; a high-welfare,straw-based system (complying with the UK-based Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Freedom Food standards) and a free-range system. The models were also used to assess the consequences of potential increases in space allowance, and to estimate the cost of rearing pigs under organic standards.

The cost of rearing pigs ranged from 92.0 p/kg carcass weight (cw) and 94.6 p/kgcw for the partly-slatted and fully-slatted systems,to 98.8 p/kgcw and 99.3 p/kgcw for the Freedom Food and free-range systems respectively. When space allowance was increased by 60% to levels in a recent proposal to revise pig welfare Directive (91/630/EEC), the rearing costs were unchanged for the free-range system but rose by 4.6 p/kgcw for the fully-slatted system. Rearing costs under organic standards were 31% higher than in the free-range system. These results suggest that improved pig welfare can be achieved with a modest increase in cost

At present, price premiums received for meat produced under high welfare systems in the UK offset the higher costs of production in these systems. To ensure profitability in the long term, it is important that these premiums are maintained.

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