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Straw for better pig welfare

Significant growth in demand – Edeka Südbayern, Vion, and EZG Südbayern increase production by 50 per cent – 40 euro bonus for farmers


According to current research, 70 per cent of consumers in Germany are prepared to pay more for meat in order to improve animal welfare and help farmers as well as the environment. “From single households to large families – no matter who buys from the meat counter – people really mean it these days,” says Franz Beringer, Management Board of the Southern Bavarian Producers’ Association (Erzeugergemeinschaft Südbayern eG). “More and more consumers in the region are really sticking to their word.”

That is why Bavaria’s largest producers’ association launched a straw programme for pigs in conjunction with Edeka Südbayern and the meat producer Vion in 2019. From schnitzel to pork knuckle, the resulting products are gaining more and more fans. As a result, the 500 pigs with straw bedding which Vion has until now processed every week at its abattoir in Landshut (certified organic since the start of the year), are no longer enough to satisfy the demand from Edeka Südbayern customers. Those involved in the closed supply chain wish to increase the number of animals processed every week within this programme to 750.

“Vion’s ‘Building Balanced Chains’ strategy therefore involves maintaining a good balance between supply of the animals and demand on the consumer side”, explains André Geven, General Manager of Vion in Landshut. That is why he wants to gradually increase the number of straw pig farmers in the programme from the current number of 18. “As for market developments in conventional pig farming,” says Geven, “it is certainly interesting for our farmers in the region to see the concrete benefits of this straw pig farming programme. In addition to the permanent lower price limit of 1.45 euros, there is also a regional, straw and animal welfare bonus of 40 euros. These conditions were further improved on 1 November.”

Closed regional supply chain

Animals are exclusively kept, reared, slaughtered, and sold in Southern Bavaria. Straw bedding provides the pigs with additional comfort and creates appropriate rooting conditions and stimulation as well as a very healthy environment in the stalls. The animals also have up to 40 per cent more space than pigs in conventional stalls and do not receive any genetically modified feed. The stalls therefore fulfil the requirements of ITW Animal Husbandry Level 3. Just like farmer Christian Pongrats in Altfraunhofen, for example.

The Southern Bavarian has participated in the GQB quality assurance scheme for over 20 years and was involved in the straw pig farming programme for Edeka Südbayern right from the start. “The idea of providing a healthy stall environment with access to fresh air, enough room to move and plenty of stimulation works because it takes into account the additional effort required from us as farmers,” he explains. Contracts which last for two years and agreed bonuses including a lower price limit and a purchase guarantee for their animals provide the farmers involved with the security they need.

And how do consumers benefit? – “Consciously putting in this additional effort and using appropriate pig farming methods in a natural environment improve meat quality, and this is instantly recognisable with the improved taste of the product,” Pongrats speaks from experience. “Ultimately, the consumer can enjoy a product which comes from the region, is produced sustainably, and is clearly of premium quality.”