Change is inevitable in pig production, making it important for pork producers to be proactive, speaker Jeremy Marchant-Forde, research animal scientist with the USDA Livestock Behavior Research Unit, shared at the Pig Well- fare Symposium.

“There is more than one way to raise pigs,” said Marchant- Forde. “Travel, visit, and read how swine production is done differently.”
In pork production, as in life, exposure to diversity is positive, according to Marchant-Forde.

“The more diverse the experience you have gained, the better you’ll be able to handle that change,” he said.

Marchant-Forde, who was raised in England, said that intensive U.S. pork production will face further scrutiny and pressure to change, especially since less than 1 percent of the U.S. population is directly engaged in farming.

“Consumers’ exposure to farm animals is confined to shopping for animal products,” he said. “Their perception of animal agriculture is fantasy rather than reality.”

Examples of the animal health code from the World Organization for Animal Health, as well as European Union legislation, point to what American producers should be thinking about, especially when it comes to future international trade, he said. This includes such production areas as housing, mixing of animals, weaning age, piglet processing and enrichment.

What’s Important to U.S. Consumers

A 2017 study asked 200 consumers what factors are important to them when considering a pig farm. The answers fell into the following six categories.

Total %
Animal welfare 74
Business operation 44
Naturalness 27
Ethical considerations 25
“Chemical residues,” antibiotics, hormones 19
Environment 13
Sato, Hotzel and von Keyserlingk (2017) American citizens’ views of an ideal pig farm, Animals, 7: 64.