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The big pig plans for Berrow Farm

Graham Harvey

Archers agricultural adviser

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Justin’s proposal for Borchester Land to have a large-scale, indoor pig farm in Ambridge is proving controversial, especially with Lynda and Kirsty. They would much rather see pigs raised outdoors as they are on Tom’s organic system.

British pork and bacon

However the reality is most British pork and bacon – around 60% – comes from pigs reared inside sheds. Around nine million pigs are slaughtered annually in the UK to provide the 25kg we each consume every year. Producing it each year is fast becoming a large-scale specialist operation.

There are currently around 10,000 pig farms in Britain (though there are many more premises that keep pigs often as pets). But of these 10,000 farms, no more than 1600 specialist units produce by far the biggest part of our pigmeat. These units are known as “assured” farms which means they meet internationally-recognised standards through the whole production chain. It’s clear Justin is aiming to build and run one of these specialist units.

Five freedoms

Welfare standards for the animals on UK farms are generally high. They are based on a welfare code that is meant to guarantee the animals five freedoms – freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express most of their normal behaviour; and freedom from fear and distress.

However, there are criticisms of methods used in modern indoor pig production. Farrowing crates in which sows are confined when they have their piglets reduce the risk of the newly-born offspring being crushed. But not everyone’s happy about them. Some critics would prefer sows to be kept using indoor pen systems.

There are also concerns about the hard slatted floors many indoor pigs are reared on. Critics say the higher welfare practice of keeping pigs on straw is kinder and more comfortable for them. From an environmental point of view, the heavy reliance of indoor systems on imported soya as a protein source is considered by many to be unsustainable.

Justin will no doubt argue that the proposed intensive pig unit for Berrow Farm will be efficient and productive, and will be meeting a real demand. Lynda and Kirsty will counter that outdoor rearing methods are both kinder to the animals and better for the planet. Whose argument will emerge triumphant remains to be seen…

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