High volumes of imported pork are failing to meet New Zealand animal welfare standards

Media Release

9 March 2023

Brent Kleiss NZPork Chief Executive

More than 50,000 metric tonnes of overseas pork was imported into New Zealand during 2022, most of it from countries that allow pig farming practices that are illegal in New Zealand.

The highest volume of pork came from Spain, at 11,450 metric tonnes (MT), a big increase on the 6,328 MT of Spanish pork imported during 2021.

The second highest volume was from Germany, with 11,158 MT, followed by Poland with 5,267MT, Canada at 4,541MT, Finland with 4,407MT and the USA at 3,867MT.

NZPork chief executive Brent Kleiss said that almost two thirds of the pork consumed in New Zealand comes from overseas but there is no requirement for it to meet our animal welfare standards.

“New Zealand imports pork from a range of countries and the differences are clear,” said Mr Kleiss.

“Based on the countries supplying about 98 per cent of imported pork last year, all of the European countries, except Sweden, plus Canada, routinely confine sows in gestation stalls for the first four weeks of their pregnancy. The USA can confine sows in gestation stalls for their whole pregnancy.” Gestation stalls are banned in New Zealand.

Mr Kleiss said New Zealand’s pork sector has more stringent welfare standards compared to most other countries, with most having less rigorous welfare and environmental standards and enforcement regimes.

Piglets are routinely castrated in Europe, the USA and Canada. Spain, Poland, and the USA do not use pain relief when this is carried out. New Zealand farmers do not castrate piglets at all.

The EU countries and the USA also have no limit on the amount of time a sow may be confined in a farrowing crate, either before or after giving birth. Canada allows up to six weeks.

New Zealand has a minimum standard and a regulation that places a limit on the length of confinement in a crate and also describes the spatial requirements of a farrowing crate.

Farrowing crates are the maternity ward for sows. They are only housed in farrowing systems when it is time for them to give birth and care for their piglets, spending a maximum of 28 days in conventional indoor systems after giving birth, and up to five days pre-farrowing.

Mr Kleiss said that Sweden, which accounted for about six per cent (2,976MT) of imported pork in 2022, is currently the only country with more stringent standards of pig welfare than New Zealand in some areas.

Australia, which exported 2,807MT of pork to New Zealand in 2022, comes close to Kiwi standards. Most Australian pig farmers are not using gestation stalls. However, this is by voluntary agreement rather than the legislated requirement it is in New Zealand.

In Australia, castration without pain relief is also still permitted if piglets are less than three weeks old. That would be illegal here.

“The EU is currently reviewing animal welfare standards that may bring them into line with New Zealand, eventually,” said Mr Kleiss. “However, this is not likely to be the case for Canada or the USA anytime soon.”

Other countries which exported pork to New Zealand during 2022 included China, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.

“New Zealand pig farmers deserve a fair go so we believe it’s time that all imported pork is required to meet our high standards.

“We urge Kiwis to back New Zealand pig farmers and always look for a 100% NZ Pork label so they know they’re getting a cut above the rest.”