UNITED KINGDOM – A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and University of São Paulo has shed light on pig farming  industry practices, evaluating various factors including land use, greenhouse gas emissions, antibiotics use, and animal welfare. 

The research, published in the journal Nature, examines 74 UK-based and 17 Brazilian breed-to-finish systems, encompassing a total of over 1.2 million pigs annually.

Lead author Dr. Harriet Bartlett, a research associate at the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, notes that while none of the farm types consistently excel across all four assessment categories, certain individual farms have emerged as outliers, demonstrating exceptional performance across environmental and welfare measures.

We found that a handful of farms perform far better than average across all four of our environmental and welfare measures,” says Bartlett.

Bartlett also stresses the importance of shifting focus towards meaningful outcomes for people, the planet, and the pigs, rather than relying solely on farm types or practices.

The way we classify farm types and label pork isn’t helpful for making informed decisions when it comes to buying more sustainable meat,” Bartlett explains. 

“Instead of focusing on farm types or practices, we need to focus on meaningful outcomes for people, the planet, and the pigs—and assess and reward farms based on these,” Bartlett added.

Senior author Andrew Balmford, professor of conservation science at the University of Cambridge, emphasizes the significance of the findings, highlighting the unexpected discovery of farms excelling in diverse domains. 

These include an indoor Red Tractor farm, an outdoor bred and indoor finished RSPCA farm, and a fully outdoor woodland farm.

According to the researchers, the current classification of farm types and labeling schemes fail to accurately predict farms’ performance across all assessment categories.

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