In 2018 we moved all our fresh pork supply, gammon and bacon to 100% British outdoor-bred from RSPCA assured farms and were awarded a Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) Good Pig Award in recognition of this important move to higher welfare pig production across all Co-op own brand products.
High animal welfare standards
Since this commitment, due to the fact that now more so than ever value is so important to our customers, last November (2020) we launched our new Honest Value line, which includes 100% British meat products. At this time our bacon and ham in this range could not be sourced in line with the existing outdoor bred standards and the bacon and ham products will be produced to standard indoor British Red Tractor at launch temporarily, whilst we transition back to higher welfare by 2023 or earlier. Last year (2020) we also won a Cage Free Award, as part of this we now have a commitment to move our continental pig supply to confinement free by 2027. We remain committed to our CIWF award and it remains in place as we work to meet the awards criteria for these two lines within the agreed time frame.
With the RSPCA assured farms we work with, this scheme covers aspects of the whole pigs lives and ensures piglets are born outdoors, where the sows are free from confinement and are able to fully express their natural behaviours. They will then be raised in well-ventilated, spacious straw barns to RSPCA welfare standards on farms across the UK. These farms also work with an independent third party to measure their performance and to drive long-term improvement. The Co-ops dedicated agriculture team also visit these farms throughout the year, as well as undertaking welfare checks at abattoirs.
Find out more about our animal welfare standards.
Meet the producer - Phil
A fourth generation farmer, Phil got into pig farming about three years ago. "Even as a kid, I was always helping around my dad’s farm at harvest time," he recalls.
"I’ve learnt that a lot of it is about routine — you have to check, check and check again, making sure the pigs are healthy and happy."
"It’s not so great when things go wrong, or when it’s freezing cold and raining, but when everything’s going smoothly, it is great. I guess it has highs and lows like any job, really — if you work in an office and can’t connect to the internet, it’s really annoying. And it’s no different on a farm — except for me, the problem will be a burst pipe."
The breeding farm’s 750 sows are divided into seven groups. Every three weeks, a different group will give birth, before weaning their litter. Depending on where they are in the breeding cycle, the sows are fed a special diet and kept on an area of the farm tailored to their needs — always with access to the open air and plenty of space, straw, food, water and places to wallow.
At the growing unit, the pigs live in temperature-controlled, light barns. Each pig’s minimum space allowance exceeds the requirements of Freedom Food standards, and each pig has permanent access to food and water — so there’s no fighting over first dibs at the trough. Boredom’s also kept at bay, with barrels to kick around, wood to chew and straw to roll in, to mimic their natural environment. "You can never have too much straw," Phil says, seriously.