Higher welfare alternatives to intensive pig farming already exist and are commercially successful.
Higher welfare indoor systems
Pigs are kept in groups on solid floors with straw or other material for bedding and rooting.
Although pigs have no access to the outdoors, there is greater opportunity for natural behavior, free movement within the pen or shed, and less crowding, conflict, boredom, and tail biting. Deep bedded systems allow for foraging and increased comfort over conventional systems.
Sows may still give birth in farrowing crates, but in higher welfare systems they give birth in huts or pens.
Outdoor reared or bred
Breeding sows are kept outdoors and are provided with huts, furnished with straw for shelter and nesting. There are no gestation or farrowing crates. At weaning, the piglets are removed from the range and reared indoors.
In these systems, sows have a higher quality of life and are able to act naturally by building nests, rooting, wallowing, and foraging. The piglets benefit from the free-range conditions until they are weaned.
Global Animal Partnership’s welfare standards require that pigs raised for meat at Steps 3 and higher have continuous outdoor access for at least eight hours per day by the time they are 14 days old, and continuous access to ranging and pasture areas is required at Steps 4 and higher.
The Animal Welfare Approved standards require that pigs have continuous outdoor access by the age of 10 days and continuous ranging access by 21 days of age.
In some systems, piglets are born outside (without gestation or farrowing crates) and spend approximately half of their lives outdoors. This is known as outdoor reared.
There is no legal definition of “free-range pork” in the US.
In the UK, a voluntary industry code requires that free-range pigs have permanent access to pasture: They must be born outside (without gestation or farrowing crates) and then be reared outside throughout their lives.
Find out how you can help to end the suffering of intensively farmed pigs.