The animal Article of the Month for November is entitled ‘Evaluation of the sustainability of contrasted pig farming systems: integrated evaluation’

In the December 2014 issue of animal, you will find a series of five companion papers presenting a comprehensive tool for the evaluation of the sustainability of pig farming systems, taking into account economy, environment and social demands from the general public and also from the farmers themselves.

This tool was developed by a consortium of European labs within the EU-supported project Q-PorkChains. It is mostly based on questions to farmers and comprises a total of 37 dimensions distributed along eight themes: Animal Welfare, Animal Health, Breeding Programmes, Environmental Sustainability, Meat Safety, Market Conformity, Economy and Working Conditions. Our hypothesis was that putting the tool to the test of very diverse systems would enable us to develop a final tool that is robust to accommodate the very diverse situations that can be found in Europe and worldwide, from intensive, indoor, conventional systems using highly performing breeds for standard meat to extensive, outdoor systems using local breeds for very high quality target markets.

The results of the integrated evaluation, taking into account all dimensions and themes are presented in the article of the month. They show that the eight themes are not redundant and all contribute to the observed variation between systems. The tool is very robust for highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the systems along the eight themes that were considered. The number of primary indicators could be reduced from 37 to 18 with limited impact on the strengths/weaknesses profile of the individual systems. Integrating the eight theme evaluations into a single sustainability score is based on hypotheses or presumptions on the relative weights that should be given to the eight themes, which are very dependent on the context and on the purpose of the users of the tool. Therefore, the present paper does not have the ambition to provide a ready-for-use tool, rather to suggest an approach for the integrated evaluation of the sustainability of pig farming systems.

The approach could be useful to all stakeholders provided that they adapt it to their needs. Decision makers in the chain may use it to identify strength and weaknesses of the different farms. Policy makers and land use planners could use to compare the respective merits of different farming systems for the area they are in charge of. Finally the approach could likely be extended to other animal farming systems such as poultry.

Access the full paper here

Authors: M. Bonneau, T. N. Klauke, J. Gonzàlez, L. Rydhmer, E. Ilari-Antoine, J. Y. Dourmad, K. de Greef, H. W. J. Houwers, M. U. Cinar, E. Fàbrega, C. Zimmer, M. Hviid, B. van der Oever and S. A. Edwards

The animal Article of the Month is selected by the Editor-in-Chief and is freely available for one month.

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