Cooperl Arc Atlantique innovates to increase animal welfare

An increasing number of consumers are worried about animal welfare. They therefore seek out products that originate from companies that work according to the principles of sustainable agriculture. The French study ‘Crédoc Consommation 2009’ revealed that 68% of French consumers are prepared to pay more for environmentally and animal-friendly products.

In the framework of the welfare project that was started a few years ago, Cooperl is now innovating in the field of animal welfare by taking a new step. Since the end of 2012, its members are being encouraged to stop castrating their piglets and to thereby profile themselves as producers of ‘porc bien-être’ (‘pig-friendly meat’). ‘Porc bien-être’ means meat from uncastrated pigs raised at farms that meet the European standards applicable in 2013.

Pig husbandry underwent massive development after the Second World War. In most European countries male piglets were castrated to counter the typical boar taint. However, only a limited percentage of boars exude the smell which is caused by the quantities of skatole, androsterone and indole present which, in turn, are determined by their sexual maturity (6.7% according to Bonneau). Moreover, only a proportion of consumers are sensitive to the smell: according to Griffith 44.3% of men and 7.6% of women cannot smell it. These figures differ per country.

Returning to pig husbandry without castration out of respect for the animal, demands excellent knowledge and hormone production control. The extent to which the smell develops in the meat depends on nutrition, genetic disposition and living conditions at the farm. Incidentally, European legislation is already pointing farmers in this direction. The EU encourages ‘voluntarily stopping routine surgical castration before the 1st of January 2018’ and the seeking out of alternatives.

Tests and experience

In order to tackle this challenge all the links in the Cooperl chain have jointly studied the consequences of stopping piglet castration for every activity. Thanks to tests and experience in large-scale pig farming (over 100,000 slaughtered boars) Cooperl can provide this production method to its members. It has thereby developed a manual for uncastrated boars. Raising the latter means every aspect of the production process has to be controlled: from fattening to slaughter and from feed to the animals’ genetic characteristics. Only if all these factors are controlled can the consumer be guaranteed boar taint-free meat.

Detection by human nose

The production of uncastrated boars necessitates the presence at slaughterhouses of a system for detecting carcasses with boar taint. Cooperl studied other European livestock farming areas where surgical castration has already been stopped. In emulation of those areas it has opted to use ‘human noses’ at all its branches. This investment in a reliable detection method enables Cooperl to ask its members to stop boar castration without endangering consumer certainty.

Thanks to our organisation into an entirely controlled production chain and the implementation of our staff we can now take this step towards sustainable nutrition. Stopping castration meets societal demand for animal welfare and environmental protection: pork from uncastrated animals not only entails more respect for the animals and their natural behaviour, but also constitutes a 10% reduction in emissions thanks to more efficient nutrition (less effluent which reduces phosphorous and nitrogen emissions). Because surgical intervention is no longer necessary there is a reduced risk of infection which also helps lower the use of antibiotics in pig farming.

Thanks to the innovative ‘porc bien-être’ Cooperl members can now align themselves with their colleagues in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain who had already halted surgical castration. French consumers with an interest in our pig farming production methods will value this innovation as a new step towards increased animal welfare and socially responsible entrepreneurship.

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