11 June 2014
Going Whole Hog supports healthy pork production
The Going Whole Hog campaign has recently come under the spotlight after being accused of disseminating “vitriol” and misleading the public by the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO).
The campaign, which was launched last year, has had a positive response from concerned consumers, media, retailers, producers and restaurants across the board. Well-known chef Franck Dangereux from the Foodbarn restaurant has endorsed the campaign and only serves pasture reared pork to his customers. Woolworths has stated that they are actively looking for free-range pork supplies and Pick n’ Pay, Checkers, Food Lover’s Market and Spar are stocking free-range pork at selected stores. Many smaller retailers have enthusiastically come on board like Melissa’s, Moyo, Wellness Warehouse, Spier and Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants.
“We started the campaign so that consumers would know where their food really comes from,” says campaign co-ordinator, Mark Fox. “The tide is turning and Going Whole Hog is responding to consumer needs and demands, and helping to create change that moves away from the factory farming of pigs.”
Butcher Ryan Bool who works with pasture reared pork comments: “SAPPO needs to know that the “public” they say the campaign is misleading are the very people questioning their practices.”
“Conventional pig farming is big business,” says independent sustainability advisor, Mpumelelo Ncwadi of the Indwe Trust. “This industrial model of food production is what ‘conscious consumers’ everywhere are strongly challenging.”
Pigs are highly intelligent, sociable beings that would normally roam up to 15km per day in the wild, forage for food and wallow in mud. Going Whole Hog acknowledges that SAPPO is slowly moving away from the cruel practice of sow stalls or cages where pregnant pigs are unable to move or turn-around, but the behavioural and welfare needs of the pigs are not being accommodated even in a deep litter set-up. There are also reports that sow stalls are still currently being installed in South Africa while this phase-out is taking place.
Well-known South African veterinarian, Brett Bard says, “It is a well recognised fact that intensive commercial pig farming is inhumane and unethical in the extreme when seen from an animal welfare perspective. This relates primarily to the practice of keeping sows in gestation crates and farrowing stalls for a considerable part of their lives, and also to concerns over castration and tail docking in piglets, routinely performed without anaesthetic. These cruel methods are justified by the industry in direct contravention of the Animal Protection Act.
“Good agricultural practice should allow pigs to have access to the outdoors, to express natural behaviour, and to be free from mutilation – a minimum standard of free-range which can be implemented to a high standard,” he says.
According to research done by South African nutritionists and dieticians, there are also heath concerns with factory farmed meat. “Studies have suggested that grass-fed animals have higher levels of nutrients like vitamin A, D, E and K,” says nutritionist Andrea Jenkins. “More studies have been done on cattle than on pigs, but one can conclude that similar effects would occur on any farmed animal should it be allowed to live a healthy active life while eating its natural food source,” she says.
Add to this the fact that factory farmed animals are routinely given antibiotics and growth hormones, predominantly fed a genetically-modified diet and live a stressed and unhappy life, which pumps the meat full of stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol – then that cheap meat on your plate contains a cocktail of health hazards that would best be avoided.
It should also be noted that after Denmark implemented an antibiotic ban for its pork industry, the country had drastically reduced antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their animals and food – and their pork industry grew by 43 percent.
“South African consumers are in need of campaigns like Going Whole Hog to bring these issues to light otherwise they will remain forever ignorant,” says Sonia de Villiers, Grass Consumer Action Group. “Perhaps SAPPO should encourage transparency by way of farm and processing plants visits if they truly want to assuage the concerns of consumers in South Africa.”
Humane Society International (HSI) Programme Manager for Africa, Tozie Zokufa, believes that 30% of Africans will be conscious consumers by 2020. “HSI is engaging with SAPPO in matters relating to pig welfare. Our country needs new regulations that would promote better animal welfare (and policing thereof). Much could be achieved for animals, by just adhering to the Animals’ Protection Act of 1962 (71 of 1962). However without public pressure (and consumer awareness), animal welfare will at most times be placed last on the priority list.”
Richard Bosman is a well known maker of “quality cured meats” who uses genuine pasture-reared pork for his products. He says, “What does open pen farming mean and does this encompass feeding, hormones and routine antibiotics? Having 500 pigs in an open pen concentrated animal feeding operation is hardly a good solution. Also, getting a best yield is exactly why corn, genetically modified soy, hormones and antibiotics are used in commercial pig farming. The solution is very simple. Tell the public where the pork comes from, let them visit the farm and make up their own minds.”
In its press release SAPPO states that the Going Whole Hog campaign is “nothing more than a front to ensure the total decimation of the reputation of the pig industry in South Africa and by extension the livelihoods of pig farmers across the country.”
“This is completely untrue,” says Fox. “We continue to promote pork as a healthy meat and it is consumers themselves who are going against factory farmed food. We are part of a change towards free-range and pasture reared pork and believe that farmers will adapt.”
Adds Ncwadi: “We are not asking conventional pigs farmers to disappear from the face of the earth. For the sake of our health and the health of our children, all that we ask is fairness, transparency and humane production of our pork.”
“SAPPO should provide a list of all their farmers for members of the public to see for themselves where their pork comes from, or at the very least allow an independent body to assess the current situation,” concludes Bard.
“We would love an open debate with SAPPO and definitely support transparency and consumer access to SAPPO’s farms,” says Fox. “Going Whole Hog will continue to inform the consumer and and fight for humanely produced food.”