Meat Quality Assurance QA Pork traceability & Pig Welfare in UK & EU - Pigmeat production welfare 

Swine housing and welfare plus traceability of meat from the producer's farm to consumer is an important part of pig quality assurance schemes in the United Kingdom


Pigmeat Traceability & Swine Welfare

Pigmeat Quality Assurance (PQA)
History of Schemes in United Kingdom


*"Assured British Pigs" takes over pigmeat QA in UK: Report
*Pig Welfare & Quality Assurance: The Historic MLC booklet: details


Pig Welfare & QA: MLC booklet

The U.K. Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) published a classic leaflet entitled "Pig Welfare" in 1999

Basic Principles of Welfare

The first page of the leaflet discusses the principles of pig welfare and lists "The Five Freedoms" adopted by the U.K. Farm Animal Welfare Council:
  • Freedom from hunger & thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour
  • Freedom from fear and distress

Despite their unrealistic idealism (do any humans or animals on the planet experience a life free of these?) the "Five Freedoms" have gained widespread currency. After all, they do express awareness, compassion and sensitivity. But let's hope that we can develop some constructive, practical and realistic approaches to enabling pigs and their keepers to live fulfilling lives.

Legislation & Codes of Practice

The key legislation that is mentioned is: Stall & Tether ban from January 1st 1999 (7 years ahead of expected EU legislation banning tethers only).

Ban on hormone feed additives for pigs (since 1986). The ban excludes from pig feed any substance containing oestrogenic, androgenic or gestagenic components.

Ban on hormone feed additives for pigs (since 1986). The ban excludes from pig feed any substance containing oestrogenic, androgenic or gestagenic components.

Ban on meat and bonemeal feeding to all farm animals (since March 1996).

Control of pig medicines via veterinary prescription requirements, on-farm storage requirements and strict "withdrawal times" before slaughter.

Specific antibiotics and other antimicrobial substances are banned from pig diets. The booklet omits to mention which antimicrobials are banned in the EU. It mentions that copper and zinc are permitted "in carefully controlled amounts to encourage efficient digestion and to promote optimum health".

National Surveillance Scheme to monitor residues of medicinal substances in meat products.

Assurance Schemes

The final section of the booklet reports that around 90 per cent of British pig production is now controlled by the plethora of voluntary quality assurance schemes e.g.

Farm Assured British Pigs Scheme (FABPigs)
Scottish Pig Industry Initiative
Malton Code
Producer co-operative schemes

The booklet goes on to list main requirements of these schemes, under the headings of...

  • Veterinary Monitoring
  • Housing
  • Husbandry
  • Food & Water
  • Transport
  • Records

Many of the terms used in these guidelines are quite generalised (even vague!) and open to a variety of interpretations e.g.

"of sufficient size to ensure comfort"
"a level of competence to ensure a full understanding of pig farming"
"as little mixing as possible"
"high quality ingredients"

However, some stipulations are more specific:

"veterinarian must visit each farm not less than 4 times a year"
"records....must...achieve full traceability from breeder to retailer"


U.K. Pigmeat QA Schemes Merge 1999

The largest pork quality assurance schemes in the United Kingdom: Farm Assured British Pigs (FABpigs) - which has 3,000 farms and covers 85% of pig production in England & Wales - and the Malton Code Certification Scheme with 2,500 farms, are uniting to form a single scheme. The new joint scheme comes into effect on September 30th 1999 and is expected to receive accreditation by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service. The new scheme will be administered by Assured British Meat (ABM) and annual farm inspections will be undertaken by PAI & Food GB. ABM is an "umbrella" organisation overseeing pig and ruminant schemes. There new pig scheme requires quarterly veterinary visits to member farms. The scheme will enforce standards on:

  • husbandry
  • farm management
  • health
  • safety
  • environment
  • feed & water supplies
  • transport
  • stocking density

The Assured British Meat (ABM) assurance scheme was launched in January 1998. It issues quality marks such as the "quality standard for pig meat" logo shown above. ABM is an independent company financed initially by the Meat & Livestock Commission (MLC) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF), but eventually becoming financed by participants. It is an "umbrella" organisation intended to oversee individual QA schemes for differing meat markets.

ABM is owned by a council nominated by organisations in the red meat sector. Management and policies are controlled by a board of eight directors, including a scientist, consumer representative, and a business representative from outside the agriculture and food industries. Further information from "Assured British Meat" at the MLC address given below on this page.

The other main pig QA Scheme, "Freedom Foods", run by the charity "Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" (RSPCA) is remaining separate. It has 1,000 pig herds, 98% of them outdoors. It has just announced a proposal to ban farrowing crates in its herds (exact timing of implementation is subject to negotiation). "Freedom Foods" includes QA schemes for other species also.

Northern Ireland has its own pork QA scheme: "The Northern Ireland Pig Quality Assurance Scheme" administered by the Ulster Farmers' Union.

Other QA organisations in the UK are concerned with "whole-farm" rather than individual species QA. Genesis Quality Assurance covers livestock, arable & horticulture enterprises. It has arisen from a combining of the Genesis Group and the Midland Farmers Action Group. It issues a "GQ" quality mark.

farm animal welfare and ethical aspects of assured meat quality schemes for consumers
Ethical & Welfare aspects
of farm livestock
Meat Quality Assurance: textbook




Home page * Farm Economics * Meat Quality * Food Safety * News & Reports © Copyright 2011 - Pig Disease Information Centre