Pig welfare has a price for Europe's pork lovers

Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:35am EDT
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By Sybille de La Hamaide

PARIS (Reuters) - Europe's pregnant pigs will be happier next year but pork eaters will pay more and some breeders will go out of business as new porcine welfare rules compound the spiraling cost of the cereals for animal feed.

Sow stalls, the metal cages used to hem in pregnant pigs and make them easier to control, are to be banned from January 1 across the 27-nation European Union, 11 years after the ban was first voted in by the bloc's lawmakers.

While animal rights groups welcome the move, the cost of applying the ban is expected to force more farmers out of the sector, leading to lower output and higher prices for Europe's wurst, chorizo and prosciutto.

"We are at the beginning of a shock wave," Jean-Michel Serres, chairman of the French pig producers group FNP, said.

"It will have a significant impact on pork prices and pose problems for the industry," he warned of a ban which in France he estimates will add 650 euros per pig to costs in a sector where many farmers are already at break-even or loss-making.

EU farmers produced a record 22.7 million metric tons (25 million tons) of pork in 2010, or more than 20 percent of the world's total production. That was twice the volume of the United States, but still far behind China's output of 51 million, EU and U.S. data showed.

An new EU ban on layers' cages already led to a doubling of egg prices in some countries earlier this year.

The rise in pork prices is unlikely to be so steep because the sector has more capacity to absorb cost increases through its processing chain, and consumers can easily turn to other cheap meats such as poultry.   Continued...