Farm animal welfare standards in spotlight


SALEM, Ohio – The National Pork Board elevated the issue of animal welfare last week, adopting a resolution that encourages pork producers to address welfare of pigs of all ages on farms.

Pushing as industry standard. The board resolution backed the producer-initiated Swine Welfare Assurance Program as “the science-based, implementable and sustainable industry standard.”

The board adopted the resolution at its quarterly meeting in Des Moines Nov. 11.

The Swine Welfare Assurance Program, or SWAP, was developed with the input of experts in animal husbandry, caretaker training, physiology, behavior, handling, production and veterinary medicine.

The program, said board president Craig Christensen, can serve as a valid and defensible alternative to third-party audits, although the program is just an assessment and is not an audit.

Ready or not. In coming years, pork producers will face questions from consumers, foodservice and retailers who want assurances about onfarm animal care practices.

Members of the Food Marketing Institute (representing retailers ) and the National Council of Chain Restaurants may require an onfarm audit process that shows animal welfare guidelines are being followed.

Humane label. At the same time as the pork board’s actions, American Humane, a Colorado-based organization dedicated to both child and animal protection, was revamping its “Free Farmed” audit and label program.

The association hired former Colorado Pork Producers Council executive director Elena Metro to lead the program, which was previously managed by the Arlington, Va.-based Farm Animal Services.

In 2002, the Free Farmed program certified 15 producers.

The goal of the voluntary, fee-based program is to certify producers for humane animal production practices.

The Free Farmed label is available to producers of beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, broiler chickens, laying hens, sheep and turkeys.

About SWAP. The program is a walk-through assessment of the animals and their environment by a certified SWAP educator. The assessment also looks at the operation’s welfare-related records.

The three main categories the assessment considers are: physiology, behavior, and performance and health.

It is not the same as the pork industry’s Pork Quality Assurance program.

Training of assessors began in 2003. If accepted, prospective educators must complete an eight-hour course and pass an examination.

Get the details

* Swine Welfare Assurance Program

National Pork Board


* Free Farmed program

American Humane

1-800-227-4645, ext. 613


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