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The potential effect of the ‘Vlees Beter Initiatief’ on welfare of Dutch fattening pigs - Marije Oostdam

The Dutch Better Meat Initiative (‘Vlees Beter Initiatief’) contains several criteria to realise a more sustainable pork production from 2015 onwards. The pillars in the initiative (animal welfare, human and animal health, and environment), are the three most mentioned societal concerns of pig production. This study focuses on the potential welfare improvement of Dutch fattening pigs, meant for sale in Dutch supermarkets. The aim of this project was to analyse on which basis the criteria in Vlees Beter Initiatief are established and analyse the potential impact on pig welfare in Dutch pork production. A literature review was conducted and three experts were interviewed.

Since World War II, food production was about efficiency. Nowadays a larger distance towards agriculture exists. In addition, people’s knowledge and understanding of agricultural production is limited. Animal production is confronted with increasing criticism and an on-going public debate about animal welfare issues, outbreaks of animal diseases and environmental pollution. All these subjects together have become a possible threat for the licence to produce for livestock farmers during the last few decades. To address this problem, an integrated chain approach is developed in the ‘Verbond van Den Bosch’, where all stakeholders in the meat sector (supermarkets, slaughterhouses, animal nutrition companies and agricultural organisations) work together in order to realise a sustainable livestock production in the Netherlands, which must be realised in 2020.
In the Netherlands more than half of the total meat consumption consists of pork, which represents 10 percent of the total added value in agriculture. The pig production sector therefore plays an important role in the way towards a sustainable meat production in the Netherlands. As a result of the ‘Verbond van Den Bosch’ , the Better Meat Initiative is developed (‘Vlees Beter Initiatief’). This initiative contains several criteria to realise a more sustainable pork production from 2015 onwards. The criteria in the agreement are scoped for the entire basic assortment of fresh pork (including minced meat and meat preparations) available in the Dutch supermarkets and food services. The pillars in the initiative (animal welfare, human and health and environment), are the three most mentioned societal concerns of pig production. Because of their major part of the pig population in the Netherlands, this study focuses on the potential welfare improvement of Dutch fattening pigs, meant for sale in Dutch supermarkets.
The aim of this project was to analyse on which basis the criteria in Vlees Beter Initiatief are established and analyse the potential impact on pig welfare in Dutch pork production. Therefore, a literature review was conducted and three experts were interviewed. The literature review focused on the literature related to the criteria in the initiative about more space allowance, solid floor area, enrichment material, transport, scrubbing facility and daylight allowance on their effect on animal welfare. Furthermore, three experts (expert on animal welfare, initiative and animal husbandry policy) were interviewed to achieve qualitative deepening in the matter. The content of every criterion was compared with the current, Dutch legislation on the subject of the criterion. In addition, the opinions of the experts were included.
Results showed a major difference in approaching space allowance, when comparing the legislation with the criterion. The legislation includes phase actuation, which is in contrast with the initiative. The criterion on solid floor area was not different from legislation for fattening pigs. However, the criterion on environmental enrichment did not differed majorly form Dutch legislation, environmental enrichment per se is improving animal welfare. Considering the criterion on transport: legislation made a clear difference between short and long transports. The initiative did not made clear for which this criterion applies, but the initiative expert clarified that the criterion is only meant for transport towards abattoirs. Reduction of the maximum transport time has a positive effect on animal welfare. No regulation about scrubbing facility or daylight allowance for fattening pigs exist in the Netherlands, so comparing the criterion with legislation was impossible. However, the experts emphasized that the criteria about scrubbing facility and daylight can have a positive effect on animal welfare. By using an stakeholder approach, this initiative was aimed to make a start on realising a more sustainable pork production in the Netherlands and to achieve improving that part of the sector that is not doing so well on animal welfare.
In conclusion, no major improvements in welfare for fattening pigs could be realised. However, this initiative is a first and important step in the right direction to realise movement of the pig sector towards sustainability.


Student: MCH Oostdam

Supervisors: ing I Boumans MSc, dr ir E Bokkers

36 Ects