Sainsbury's unveil farrowing prototypes

Sainsbury’s has unveiled a pioneering prototype farrowing system which could improve the welfare of pigs and replace traditional indoor systems.

The supermarket is working with a family-run pig farm near Driffield in East Yorkshire to look at the benefits of the 70 farrowing systems or ‘freedom pens’. It hopes to provide a safer environment for sows and piglets while they are suckling, which would lead to a better quality of life and improve sustainability on farms.

Sainsbury’s provided funding for the concept farm to trial breeding, feeding and husbandry techniques and to pilot new and alternative ways of working.

Annie Graham, head of agriculture at Sainsbury’s, said: “The concept farm is a totally new, revolutionary way of working to trial new ideas that combine sustainability and improved animal welfare. By sharing our findings, we ensure that our other farmers benefit and have sustainable, cost effective techniques in place for the future, without compromising productivity. Because we are a major pork retailer, any changes we make to the farrowing system will benefit millions of pigs in the future.

“Our customers expect us to lead the way in animal welfare. We have already made a difference with better animal welfare and we are the largest retailer or Freedom Food products in the UK.”

Vicky Morgan from the concept farm at Porkthorpe said: “Working in collaboration with Sainsbury’s has been fantastic and is a great partnership for our business and the future of the British pig industry as a whole.

“The Freedom Pens will ensure that our pigs are able to nest build which is very important to the sows prior to farrowing. The sows will be able to move around and we are hoping that this will increase their appetite and help them milk better, to produce a healthier piglet. In turn, we hope that Freedom Pens will have a positive impact on productivity and longevity and be a higher welfare system of indoor pig production.

“We are extremely proud of our farm and how we look after our pigs, but we believe that as an industry and a business we should always be striving to improve and look after our animals.”