Pigs are natural foragers - they enjoy rooting (their natural instinct to dig up the grass with their nose) and exploring. They are highly inquisitive, social animals and have a language which contains some 40 different expressions!
As highly intelligent animals, they deserve to be raised in a way which reflects their natural behaviour as much as possible.
Sadly this is not the case in much of the UK, and the rise of intensive farming has led to pigs being raised indoors under sometimes very stressful conditions.
The truth behind the bacon
- Roughly 9 million pigs are slaughtered every year in the UK – only about 1.5% of UK pigs are organic.
- There are approximately 500,000 sows in the UK, and between 70 to 75% of these spend their entire life indoors.
- Approximately 80% of UK pigs have their tails cut off – to prevent bored and unhappy pigs shut up in sheds from biting the tails of the pigs they are confined with.
- Around 55% of sows in the UK give birth while confined in crates, which they remain in until their litter is weaned. This prevents them from turning around and seriously hampers their ability to perform natural maternal behaviour. At least 35% of pigs reared for meat in the UK are kept in barren systems without any straw bedding.
- The average size of large-scale intensive pig farms in the UK is around 500–900 sows.
- The average pig herd size for all farms in the UK is around 75 sows.
- Approximately 92% of pigs are kept on 1,400 pig farms and the rest on some 10,000 small holdings and smaller and mixed farms.
Figures correct as of 2014
Do you know the true cost of cheap meat? - watch Pig Business and find out more about why you should switch to organic.
Organic pigs - Happier healthier animals
Organic pigs are kept in conditions that, as far as possible, allow them to express their natural behaviour. This includes being kept in family groups with free access to fields when conditions allow. In practice this means that most organic pigs will be outdoors all year round, though indoor housing is permitted in severe weather conditions, provided that there is plenty of straw bedding for the pigs, and continued access to an outdoor run.
Soil Association standards ban several practices that are common in the non-organic pig industry. These include:
- Nose ringing - this is used to prevent pigs from natural rooting behaviour
- Tail docking - pigs in confined spaces often bite each other’s tails, so non-organic producers dock tails to prevent this
- Farrowing crates - these are small metal cage only inches wider than the female pig, which are used around the time she gives birth to restrict her movement and prevent her from following maternal instincts.
- The routine use of antibiotics on organic animals is banned. Many non-organic pigs, poultry and dairy cows receive antibiotics routinely, whether or not they are unwell. Under EU law, farmers are even allowed to give animals antibiotics which are critically important in human medicine.
Look for the logo and you can be sure the pork or bacon you’re eating has been raised to the very highest standards and is fully traceable from farm to fork.