Berlin pork symposium discusses piglet castration alternative

By Oli Haenlein

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Domestic pig Pig Wild boar Livestock Pork

Pig producers, processors and veterinarians from around the world met at a symposium in Berlin named ‘Create Winning Relationships Across the Pork Value Chain’, with piglet castration a key topic.

The event sought to find ways for the various parties to work together more closely to share insights into the changing dynamics of the international pig trade.

A major subject at the symposium, sponsored by animal health company Zoetis, was replacing piglet castration with vaccinations. Several speakers discussed the adoption of vaccinations for pork value chains around the world.

Pork quality expert Dr Jose Peloso from Brazil said: "Although Brazilian integrators do not usually have their own retail outlets, acceptance of pork produced using vaccination of boars has not been a problem.

"Pork produced using new technologies is readily accepted by retailers if proven safe, the end-products are unchanged, and it supports sustainable production. We have had no complaints from consumers."

However, speakers from Europe suggested the uptake of such technologies has been slower. Egbert Klokkers, vice-president of Westfleisch in Germany, said: "We will go the way the retailer or the consumer wants to go. While considering alternatives to castration, we still have two debates: the risk of boar smell in the meat from non-castrated pigs; and using Improvac (vaccination) as a means to prevent this. Both ways are still possible and at Westfleisch we are evaluating the alternatives.

"We have some farms with Improvac use and we have a certain demand for non-castrated pigs for export to ‘welfare’ markets such as the Netherlands and the UK. At the end of the day the retailer, which is the voice of the consumer, will decide which way we are going to go. So we have to convince the retailer."

Dr Pietro Pizzagalli, from Fumagalli in Italy, said that discontinuing castration can lower the quality of pork products: "Castration is an issue in animal welfare and we have countries that ask if it is possible not to have castrated pigs.

"The problem for us is that we raise pigs to nine months, and after six months the boar smell in the meat is a big problem. We produce a lot of high-end products, like Parma Ham, so the quality of the meat is very important. We want to study using Improvac to solve this problem while producing a premium-quality product."

Fumagalli has started a trial of the vaccine on 2,000 pigs on its Italian farms to see if the final product will be of sufficient quality.

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