Pig rearing systems and pork labels

Standard indoor

Pigs raised indoors without higher welfare certification are not required to have access to bedding, and may be raised on fully slatted or bare concrete flooring, which is easier to clean but less comfortable for the animals. Pregnant sows may also be confined to farrowing crates when giving birth and nursing their young.

Higher welfare Indoor

Pigs raised to higher welfare indoor standards will be kept in barns with straw or other suitable enrichment materials and a lying area of solid construction with sufficient comfortable bedding. Material such as straw is very important for pigs since it keeps them occupied by rooting and foraging around so they don’t get bored. It also allows sows to engage in their natural nesting behaviours prior to giving birth. Higher welfare indoor systems also use free farrowing accommodation such as individual pens or indoor arcs.

Outdoor-bred

Outdoor bred means the pigs are born in outdoor systems with access to bedded arks and large outdoor paddocks. Shortly after weaning, the piglets are brought indoors for growing and finishing. This is normally in large airy barns with plenty of bedding (usually straw) and enrichment materials.

Outdoor-reared

Outdoor reared pigs are born and reared in outdoor systems for about half of their lives. While outdoor-reared pigs may not necessarily have access to pasture, they will have access to an outside pen and a bedded tent or arc. Sows on outdoor reared systems remain outdoors for most of their lives but may be brought indoors.

Free-range

Free-range pigs are born and raised outside where they and the sows spend their entire lives with permanent outdoor access.

Organic 

Pigs raised on organic farms can be raised to higher welfare standards. There are various different organic standards/labels but in the UK, the legal requirement is that the pigs must have permanent access to the outdoors (whenever weather conditions and the state of the ground allow). They also have access to bedded huts or tents and a large paddock. Both sows and boars are also in these outdoor environments for their entire lives.

Farrowing & suckling

Farrowing is the act of giving birth to the piglets. The piglets remain with the sow usually for the first four to five weeks after being born (though for a longer period in organic systems), while piglets are suckled and gradually weaned from their mother’s milk to solid food.

Growing

This is the early stage of rearing which takes place between around four and ten weeks.

Finishing

The final stage of rearing, up until the pig is slaughtered at around six months though this depends on the product for which the meat will be used. The average weight of a UK pig at slaughter is 80 - 90 kg.

Pork labels

In addition to rearing system labels, there are a number of logos that you might see on pork packaging in the UK.

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