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Belgian consumers' attitude towards surgical castration and immunocastration of piglets

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In the vast majority of European countries, piglets are surgically castrated in order to eliminate the risk of boar taint, an odour or flavour that can be present when pork from entire males is cooked. However, surgical castration is the subject of much debate and criticism as a result of its negative implications for piglets' welfare, integrity and health. At present, there is much ongoing research into potential alternatives, among them immunocastration. This practice involves the injection of a vaccine that inhibits the production of the hormones responsible for boar taint. Although satisfactory results are associated with immunocastration in terms of meat quality and production parameters, uncertainty concerning consumer acceptance is often put forward as a key element in the quest for a successful market introduction. This study focuses on consumer awareness of piglet castration and attitudes towards immunocastration by means of a web-based questionnaire among 225 Flemish consumers. We noted approximately 40% awareness of the routine practice of castrating piglets and this limited awareness is accompanied by a moderate level of concern regarding castration, especially in comparison to food safety and other pork production system-related animal welfare issues. Sixty percent of the sample had a general appreciation for the concept of immunocastration, as opposed to surgical castration. Informing consumers about the potential benefits and/or risks from immunocastration did not tend to have much effect in terms of altering their attitudes. Immunocastration did not emerge as a problem in terms of consumer acceptance: special attention should be paid to consumers' perception of pricing, food safety and the taste of the meat from immunocastrated pigs.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2009


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