WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PORK
There’s a huge range of pork to choose from – from intensively reared to free-range and organic.
As long as it’s responsibly reared, it’s a beautiful meat – the depth of flavour is the biggest difference.
But the message to eat less meat, and higher welfare, is no longer just about taste or animal welfare, it’s about human health as well.
The difference between low-welfare and high-welfare farming impacts the nutritional value. For example, the biggest nutritional difference between organic meat and non-organic is that organic meat contains around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, according to a report published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Plus, organic meat was found to have slightly lower concentrations of two saturated fats linked to heart disease.
Organic and truly free-range pigs are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive farming. This is especially important in light of reports highlighting how the overuse of antibiotics in farming is undermining the treatment of infections in humans.
These brands offer the highest levels of welfare from birth to slaughter, this leads to leaner meat richer in Vitamin E and Iron. Know of any other brands who should be listed? Send us your recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The supermarket brands we recommend
Laverstoke Park Farm
These brands are much better than most:
- Organic: certified by the Soil Association
WHY? It is estimated that just 10% of pigs are raised in truly higher-welfare, free-range and organic conditions.
Pigs are very sociable animals and when given the chance they will happily spend their days grazing or rooting the ground with their sensitive snouts – or wallowing in the mud to cool down. If it’s cold, shelter with plenty of straw is their perfect hideaway.
Given the opportunity to behave naturally, pigs on these farms will automatically designate themselves a toilet area – away from where they live and eat.
Some of the farms with these labels are good, others do the bare minimum to get certified. We recommend contacting your brand of choice if buying one of these labels:
- RSPCA FF
- Outdoor reared
- Red Tractor
- Outdoor bred
WHY? Intense competition between the supermarkets and their tiny margins mean that meat has become cheaper than ever. The farmers themselves have been forced into levels of efficiency that have never been seen before – and that includes pushing animals to grow at unnatural rates. As one farmer explains it: “That’s not a pig, that’s a genetic monster who’s lived in a shed all its life.”
The conditions these pigs are bred into are less than ideal and the slaughter process is almost certainly involves using CO2 stunning.
Pigs that are outdoor bred are born into systems with outdoor space and then brought inside for fattening and weaning, but the mother continues to live outdoors.
When I asked David Clarke, former CEO of Red Tractor, which certifies 85% of pig farms, what are the advantages of “outdoor bred pork” his reply was: “The advantages are some people are prepared to pay more money for it because they think it’s better welfare.”
The truth about intensive farming
Intensive farming now accounts for an incredible 90% of all pork sold in the UK, according to Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).
Fed growth hormones to grow quickly, commercially reared pigs are ready for slaughter from five months old, twice as fast as higher welfare breeds which grow at a more natural pace.
They are fattened up on cereals and are fed routine antibiotics because diseases spread quickly in tightly packed conditions and they haven’t fed from their mother for long enough to build up immunity. In September 2016, a study by organic certification body Soil Association revealed 63% of pork samples contained antibiotic-resistant E. coli.
When it comes to pigs, what passes as acceptable is pretty horrifying. You can read a full article we wrote about it here.