Real Welfare scheme demonstrates continued improvements in pig welfare

Monday, 25 January 2021

Our Real Welfare scheme is unique in the type of data it collects and the degree to which it represents practices across the industry.

This year’s data shows that the vast majority of pig farms continue to have good levels of welfare and the sector as a whole shows continuous improvements are being made.

More than 13 million pigs have been individually assessed by specially trained vets to provide this credible and benchmarked level of welfare; this has created the biggest database of its kind anywhere in the world.

The data, published in a new report, show that on average, all the welfare outcomes measured, bar one, have shown improvements since the scheme was introduced in 2013.  

For a more in-depth look at the latest data, read our new report

The data also confirm a slightly increasing trend for the enrichment use and that where welfare issues are found during an assessment, they are localised and not uniform across a farm. The welfare measure with the lowest recorded prevalence was pigs requiring hospitalisation (0.05% of pigs), and the measure with the highest prevalence was severe body marks (0.18% of pigs).

Dr Mandy Nevel, Head of Animal Health and Welfare, said: “This assessment of Real Welfare outcomes shows the scheme provides a positive impact, especially in providing good support to decrease lameness, severe body marks and improve hospital pen management.

“It also continues to build on the partnership between farmers and veterinary surgeons, providing an excellent basis from which to drive, and evidence, the British pig industry’s commitment and achievements in continuous improvement in pig welfare.”

Angela Christison, Sector Strategy Director (Pork), added: “These results show by acting in unison to continue to drive up standards, we can make real progress across the board.”

Real Welfare assessments are a requirement of Red Tractor and Quality Standard Meat farm assurance schemes. Through the scheme, vets routinely assess four welfare measures on pigs over 50 kg. The fifth measure, environmental enrichment, is optional, although the type of enrichment found in pens must be recorded. The five welfare measures are:

  • Hospital pigs (pigs that would benefit from removal to a hospital pen)
  • Lameness
  • Tail damage
  • Body marks
  • Environmental enrichment use

Dr Georgina Crayford, Red Tractor Technical Manager (Pigs) said: “The data captured through the Real Welfare scheme is invaluable for evidencing the fantastic efforts of pig farmers in maintaining good welfare on their farms.

"We are delighted that inclusion of this important initiative in the Red Tractor Pigs Scheme over the past seven years is continuing to add value to the British pig industry and provide reassurance to consumers.”

Find out more about the Real Welfare scheme