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How is Australian Pork Produced?

If you think the definitions for eggs has gotten too confusing, you will need to read this guide to sort out the different pork labels!

What is the difference between pastured pork, free range, bred free range, organic and sow stall free?


Pastured Pork

The definition of pastured pork is:

 'All animals are born and raised outdoors with continuous and unconfined access to pasture throughout their life time. They are kept at a stocking intensity that will ensure forage is always available in a sustainably managed rotational grazing system.*'

As a PROOF Licensee, a pork producer makes a commitment to you that the pork they produce is born and raised outdoors and conditions will ensure that they are free to roam with access to pasture.  Look for the PROOF logo.

Free Range Pork

Free range pork should come from pigs that were born and raised with access to the outdoors. Legal definitions of free range are changing so that access to an outdoor range doesn't mean that the animals actually have to use it.  Not all free range farms are the same and conditions vary greatly from open green paddocks to pig feed lot style production. Look for producers that also say they are pastured.  Better still, ask for PROOF.

Organic Pork

The organic standards are more focused on farm inputs and land management and most certifiers only require that the  Code of Practice for Animal Welfare - Pigs is complied with.  The code offers minimum welfare standards for pigs.  The pigs are required to have access to the outdoors and in some instances, to pasture.  Because of the strict feed and animal treatment restrictions of the organic standard, organic pork production is not common in Australia and usually only found on very small farms.

Bred Free Range Pork or Outdoor Bred, Raised on Straw

Bred free range is a very confusing term, so much so that the ACCC has stepped in and now industry has changed the term to Outdoor Bred, Raised on Straw to better align with this production style practices.

These terms do not mean that the pigs are free range.  All these terms mean is that only the sow lives outdoors and that her piglets are weaned as early as 21 days of age and moved indoors into sheds or what the industry likes to refer to as eco shelters.

The pork produced from bred free range or outdoor bred is not free range.  The pigs that the pork comes from were raised indoors, not outdoors on pasture.

Sow Stall Free Pork

Sow Stalls or Crates are used to confine individual sows in intensive pig production. These stalls are very restrictive and do not allow free and natural movement by the sow.  All she can do is stand up or lie down.  She cannot turn around.  Sow Stall Free means that sows will not be kept in these stalls, instead the animals will be group housed in sheds.  

Unfortunately it is not the sow that becomes pork, it is her offspring.  Porker pigs have never been housed in sow stalls, they are instead housed in sheds.  This is a grey area for many consumers because pork industry terminology is not understood.  Ending the use of sow stalls is a great initiative but it must be understood that sow stall free does not mean free range.

The use of Farrowing Crates, which are a different form of sow stall, has not been phased out. Read more on our pig welfare page.

Does Sow Stall Free actually mean that no Sow Stalls can be used?

No it doesn't. 

The Pork Industry body standard, APIQ Gestation Stall Free, states:

The Australian Pork Limited (APL) “Gestation Stall Free” (GSF) definition as voted by APL Delegates in November 2010, is:

“Sows and gilts are kept in loose housing from at least five days after service until one (1) week before farrowing, where service refers to the last mating.

How the sows are housed from weaning to last mating (which could be several weeks) is unclear but there is no wording to suggest that sow stalls cannot be used during this time.


Intensive Pork

This is not an official category for pork production but it is a term that many refer to for pigs that are kept indoors for their entire lives and the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates is permitted. 

The pork industry has made a promise to phase out sow stalls by 2017.  Unfortunately there is no way to legally enforce such an action because it is quite legal to keep sows in stalls during certain stages of each pregnancy.  While sections of the industry have converted to group indoor housing for sows, others will continue to use sow stalls.


Disclaimer

The opinions, advice and information contained in this website have not been provided at the request of any person but are offered by  PROOF and Australian Pig Farmers solely for informational purposes. While the information provided has been formulated in good faith, it should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice. Australian Pig Farmers, PROOF or Free Range Farm Management do not accept liability in respect of any action taken by any person in reliance on the content of this publication.

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