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Farming Today Pig Week focuses on outdoor production systems

14th Jan 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The latest edition of BBC Farming Today’s Pig Week focuses on outdoor production, featuring Wiltshire producers Cameron and Muriel Naughton.

Farming TodayThe programme explored the meaning of the different outdoor labels – outdoor bred, outdoor reared and free range.

You can listen to the programme here

Cameron began by explaining how his pigs were coping ‘extremely well’ in the muddy weather. “All our huts are insulated – they are nice and snug in there. As long as we can get plenty of food and straw and water to them, they are very happy. Winter actually takes much more of a toll on the men and the machinery,” he said.

He discussed how outdoor pig breeding was a great way for a traditional mixed farm to operate, as the pigs eat the cereals grown on the farm and sleep on the straw, while the manure produced goes back onto the land as fertiliser for the next crop.

All sows are kept outdoors and Muriel explained how young pigs are reared outside for three months during the summer, before being finished on straw inside, meeting he ‘outdoor reared’ definition. However, as the pigs are moved indoors to be reared on straw after weaning during the winter months due to unsuitable ground conditions, the pigs are marketed as outdoor bred and sold through the RSPCA Assured Scheme.

Cameron said customers are ‘prepared to pay a little bit more for the fact that we keep our pigs outdoors and we keep them on straw all the way through their finishing lives’.

Labelling systems

Compassion in World Farming’s Phil Brook was also interviewed, setting out CIWF wants see compulsory labelling of pig systems of production, including ‘standard’ indoor bred and reared pigs.  

You can read why the NPA is opposed to compulsory method of production labelling here 

An NPA briefing on the subject cites the cost involved in ensuring pork from the different production systems is correctly segregated and labelled appropriately and explains why MOP labelling ‘over-simplifies the concept of what contributes to good animal welfare’.

Outdoor definitions

Outdoor bredpigs born outside and moved inside to be reared usually on straw after weaning.

Outdoor reared – pigs are born outside and reared outside for about half their lives, before being moved indoors and finished usually on straw.

Free range - pigs are born outside and remain outside until they are sent for processing.

You can read more about the definitions here