News last update:Feb 25, 2016

Vion considering slaughterhouse for high welfare pigs

Netherlands-based meatpacker Vion Food may set up a slaughterhouse especially for pigs that have been produced under high welfare conditions.

The Netherlands has a retail labelling system indicating the level of welfare pigs have had during their lifetime. This so-called ‘Better Life’ system awards one, two or three stars to meat depending on the living conditions an animal had during its life.

In order for the meatpacker to move to a special slaughterhouse, the number of animals in the high welfare scheme should rise, Bert Urlings, director quality control, said. At the moment, daily about 3,500 pigs are slaughtered getting one star.

At the time of introduction of the scheme, several years ago, a specialised slaughterhouse was appointed for the label. When this plant was closed in 2012, all high welfare pigs went to a different abattoir, also processing about 10,000 conventionally raised pigs per day.

Earlier this month, doubts arose around the welfare scheme when a televised documentary reported that conventionally grown pigs may have been slaughtered, processed and mixed together with high welfare pigs.

The television programme reporting on the alleged fraud interviewed employees stating that simply more money can be made when meat is occasionally mixed. One employee said: “Several years ago customers were told: We do not have everything you ask for. People said no. Nowadays we do deliver, even when we do not have the stocks.”

A Vion spokesman dismissed the allegations, calling it ‘nonsense’ that higher management would tell staff to not always do it by the book. “We are a company with integrity and our control system does not indicate anything is wrong. All is done properly.”

The television programme also suggested that manure from intestines would contaminate carcasses during slaughter.

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