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One, two or three hearts for Danish consumers

The new Danish welfare label allocates pork one, two or three hearts depending on the level of welfare in production.The first producers under the scheme welcome the new initiative.

Pig producer Niels Aage Arve’s new housing system for loose sows was introduced in all units in 2013. The move required additional investment in both building and management – costs that he bore himself. Now, however, help is at hand. The new government-backed animal welfare label is designed to show consumers the standard of welfare in the herd that the meat is sourced from. Thus consumers are now able to influence developments through the choice they make at the supermarket. Moreover, the costs of developing improved welfare will be shared between the producers and consumers.

Photo: Seges Pig Research Centre

One heart
Niels Aage Arve, who produces pigs at a farm north of the city of Aarhus in Jutland, has long awaited a scheme that would enable the costs of producing higher welfare pigs to be shared by others.
"I welcome the new welfare label and have been waiting for it since we built the new unit in 2013. At that time, we decided to build for loose-housed sows throughout the production chain without being sure that we would get any extra payment for our pigs,” says Arve. His pigs have been awarded one heart and he hopes that the marketing of the label will make it easier for consumers to understand what level of welfare they’re getting for their money.

Not without its challenges

Certain changes have had to be introduced into Niels Aage’s daily life on the farm.
"We stopped docking tails in October 2016, which has required more space and straw and we put up 700 straw racks which have to be filled daily,” he says. Aage will take on another employee in addition to the eight that already look after the 1,325 sows that produce around 44,000 piglets per year.
"Producing pigs with full tails requires more space and to get more space for every pig, we have to sell more pigs at 7 kg. But we planned well ahead and everything has now fallen into place.”

Photo: Seges Pig Research Centre

Two and three hearts
Another satisfied producer is Michael Nielsen. He lives north of Copenhagen where he has two farms: one with 850 sows where he produces 27,000 piglets under the Antonius production system. The second farm is an organic production with 200 sows that produce 4,000 piglets. He keeps one third of these until they are ready for slaughtering.

"I think it’s an excellent scheme which helps consumers to select the product they want,” says Michael Nielsen. For many years he has been part of the Antonius scheme which means he receives a premium for his pigs. Antonius pigs qualify for two hearts while his organic pigs are assigned three hearts.

Information at the chilled cabinet
In order that consumers can make a choice between meat with one, two or three hearts, Michael Nielsen believes that information should be available at the chilled cabinets in supermarkets.

"It can be difficult for consumers to differentiate between the many advertisements currently on display. If consumers are to be helped make an informed choice, information needs to be available at the chilled cabinets.” He knows that launching new labels is a challenge, but very much hopes that consumers will support the initiative so they can contribute to the promotion of higher welfare standards.

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