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Welfare, performance and meat quality of fattening pigs in alternative housing and management systems: a review

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Conventional husbandry systems for pork production are scrutinized by members of the general public as well as the scientific community. As a response, alternative forms of pig production, such as outdoor housing, organic farming and environmental enrichment are gaining interest. The question arises whether these production systems are indeed able to improve the welfare and health status of the animals, and whether these production systems alter production characteristics and meat or carcass traits. Measures of poor welfare have been described, but evaluating overall welfare is difficult. Certain parameters of alternative housing will improve welfare in some ways but, simultaneously, other welfare problems are inflated, and the weighting of each of these problems is very subjective. Alternative housing systems allow pigs to display species‐specific behaviour and decrease the occurrence of abnormal behaviours by acting on several parameters: indoor versus outdoor housing, floor space/density, floor type, and provision of bedding or other types of environmental enrichment. Evaluating alternative housing systems should be done by looking at all the welfare‐improving factors and the cost of alleviating welfare‐decreasing problems in a given production system. Data in the literature on growth, meat and carcass traits in alternative production systems, are inconsistent, indicating that other factors can play an important role. However, as equal, or in some cases even better, performance can be attained in certain production systems that meet concerns of animal welfare scientists and members of the general public, alternative production forms may be considered preferable. Copyright © 2005 Society of Chemical Industry
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Keywords: alternative housing; carcass quality; growth; meat quality; pig; welfare

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: 1: Laboratory of Animal Nutrition. Department of Animal Nutrition, Genetics, Breeding and Ethology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University. Heidestraat 19, B-9820 Merelbeke, Belgium 2: Laboratory of Ethology. Department of Animal Nutrition, Genetics, Breeding and Ethology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Heidestraat 19, B-9820 Merelbeke, Belgium 3: Ministry of the Flemish Community, Agricultural Research Centre, Department of Animal Nutrition and Husbandry, Scheldeweg 68, B-9090 Melle, Belgium

Publication date: 15 April 2005

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