The International Agency for Research on Cancer recommends people watch how much processed meat they eat in order to reduce the risk of cancer.
However, the amount of pork and processed pork products eaten in New Zealand is well within the recommended healthy eating guidelines. The IARC highlights the importance of diet and exercise in reducing cancer risk, rather than one particular food.
Location and climate is a big factor in whether pigs can be farmed outdoors. Outdoor breeding is only possible in a moderate climate with low rainfall and free-draining soil conditions.
In New Zealand, that means the majority of local outdoor production is confined to Canterbury. New Zealand is unique internationally, in that it has some locations with the climate and soil type that allow successful outdoor breeding.
For pork to be free-range it must come from a pig that lived its entire life in an open paddock with access to shelter.
Less than 2% of farmed pigs in New Zealand are free-range.
In free-farmed systems, sows give birth to their piglets in outdoor shelters, but once weaned, piglets are moved to social group housing in a variety of straw or sawdust-based shelters.
Free-farmed pigs are produced from farms that breed outdoors.
Piglets are born in a hut or other type of outdoor shelter that allows sows to move relatively freely (although nursing sows feed 23 hours per day, so a lot of time is spent lying down) before being weaned. After weaning, pigs are housed in a variety of straw or sawdust-based shelters. These may be semi-open but provide protection from weather extremes – wind, rain, cold and hot.
Some farmers prefer indoor farming because they believe it allows them to provide the best care for their pigs, regardless of climate or land-type.
It also allows farmers to carefully manage their impact on the environment. Internationally, indoor pig farming is the norm.
Indoor farming units are designed to be kept warm and dry, provide a high level of monitoring and enable staff to interact safely with their animals. In indoor systems, sows and grower piglets are predominately housed in social groups.
Yes, however there are strict rules in place to reduce the risk of spreading diseases.
These rules ban the feeding of untreated meat to pigs. Untreated meat is any meat that hasn’t been boiled at 100°C for one hour. (Note: this is considerably hotter and longer than cooking for human consumption).
No, the use of sow stalls, in which sows are confined for a portion or all of their pregnancy, are banned in New Zealand.
However, 94% of pigmeat imported into New Zealand comes from countries that permit the use of sow stalls – systems that would be illegal in New Zealand.
Farrowing crates are the most common system used to house sows and piglets worldwide.
No country has completely banned their use.
The small number of countries (three) that have limited their use, have significant farm subsidies (over 50% of farm income). At least one (Sweden) is currently monitoring the change, due to the high level of piglet mortality.