News from the National Pork Board
Swine Welfare Assurance Program to begin training educators
The Pork Checkoff's Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAP) is
nearing its August 2003 target date for availability to producers,
when they will be able to have their farms assessed by Certified
SWAP Educators. Swine Welfare Assurance Program Educator teams
will begin training SWAP Educators this summer. As is the case
for Pork Quality Assurance, veterinarians are qualified to become
Certified SWAP Educators. All Educators are required to have 2
years of swine experience, attend a Certified SWAP Educator Training
Session, and pass an exam. For more information, contact the National
Pork Board at 515-223-2600, or go online at www.porkboard.org.
Swine Welfare Assurance Program frequently asked questions
Q: What is the Swine Welfare Assurance Program?
A: The Swine Welfare Assurance Program is a user-friendly way
for producers to objectively measure and track indicators of swine
welfare on their farms. It assesses welfare during all phases of
production - breeding, gestation, farrowing, nursery, and finishing.
Q: How does SWAP help producers?
A: It gives them a uniform, producer-developed tool to help
maintain market availability, or open up new marketing avenues,
if those markets ask for information about animal welfare. Food
service and retail companies may want assurances about on-farm
animal care practices. This raises the possibility that in order
to have access to these markets through the packers that supply
them, a producer might have to show compliance with the animal
welfare guidelines of multiple companies, written by people not
familiar with swine production. SWAP will provide a means of dealing
with these requirements that is uniform, producer-developed, and
tailored for implementation on the individual farm.Even if a producer
is not in a market in which the packer asks for animal welfare
information, this tool will help them to evaluate and track their
animals' welfare over time and possibly identify weaknesses in
management, nutrition, or health programs before they become production
problems.Finally, implementing the program will demonstrate the
producers' commitment to their pigs' welfare to packers, food service,retailers,
Q: How does SWAP measure on-farm swine welfare?
A: There is no scientific consensus about the 'ideal' tool
to measure animal welfare. However, it is generally accepted that
three indicators should be measured concurrently to provide an
accurate assessment of welfare: physiology (hormones and immune
response), behavior, and performance and health. Using one of these
indicators alone to evaluate welfare may provide a misleading assessment.
SWAP will measure all three indicators using an objective on-farm
review of the herd's records, the animals, and the conditions of
Q: Does SWAP apply to all producers and production styles?
A: Yes. Since SWAP is an assessment of the welfare of the animal,
it is independent of the type of facility or production system
and the number of animals. It is applicable to all production sizes
and types, including indoor and outdoor operations and operations
using stalls, pens, or other forms of housing.
Q: How and when is SWAP to be implemented?
A: SWAP will consist of a walk-through assessment of the animals
and their environment and an evaluation of the operation's welfare-related
records with a Certified SWAP Educator. These assessments will
be most effective if they are performed on a regular basis, so
that results may be tracked and used as indicators of stable or
changing welfare conditions. This will enable producers to use
SWAP to identify and correct deficiencies before they become production
or health concerns.
Q: How does SWAP help answer consumer and retailer concerns?
A: The Food Marketing Institute (representing retailers) and
the National Council of Chain Restaurants (representing food service
companies) may require an on-farm audit process that shows whether
welfare guidelines are being followed. This process may be developed
by the pork producer, or it might be developed and imposed on producers
by others unfamiliar with pork production practices.SWAP enables
producers to show that they are practicing science-based and effective
production practices that address the animal's well-being. Although
SWAP is an assessment and not an audit, it gives the producer an
objective program suitable for on-farm implementation that might
satisfy the retailers' and restaurants' requirements.
Q: How was SWAP developed?
A: The Pork Checkoff's Animal Welfare Committee, consisting
of producers with various sizes of operations and types of production,
has overseen the development of SWAP. The Committee worked with
an advisory group of national and international experts in animal
behavior, physiology, veterinary medicine, production, housing,
handling, and stockmanship-training to develop a usable and effective
Q: How does this program compare with the PQA Program?
A: SWAP is similar to the PQA Program in that each has been
producer-driven and offers producers a uniform, effective educational
tool, suitable for on-farm implementation, to gain or maintain
access to various markets. SWAP will be introduced to PQA producers
through the PQA's Good Production Practice #8, titled "Provide
Proper Swine Care." However, SWAP and the PQA Program are
separate and different. SWAP focuses on providing pork producers
with information about animal welfare practices for their operation
and helping them to evaluate and track these practices.
Q: What educational materials are needed to complete SWAP?
A: The Checkoff's Swine Care Handbook, PQA Program book,
and On-Farm Euthanasia of Swine - Options for the Producer booklet
provide detailed information about animal care and handling and
facilities. All producers and employees who work with swine should
be familiar with these materials. They are referenced in the SWAP
Q: Is SWAP mandatory?
A: No, SWAP is a voluntary educational tool for
all pork producers to objectively assess the welfare of their pigs.
Q: What was the timeline for the development and availability
A: The Checkoff's Animal Welfare Committee began overseeing
the process of developing SWAP in 2000. During 2001 and 2002, the
program was tested on multiple farms of different sizes and production
types to ensure that all pork producers can use it.Training of
Certified SWAP Educators qualified to help producers implement
SWAP on their farms and perform assessments will begin in March
of 2003. SWAP Instructor Teams from participating universities
that provide extension service will be training Certified SWAP
Educators in preparation for availability of the program to producers
beginning in August 2003.The timeline may be amended to accomplish
program goals as defined by the Checkoff Animal Welfare Committee.
Real world shopping behavior observed
The Pork Checkoff is involved in numerous facets of the pork industry.
Understanding the consumer is a very important part of pork production.
This synopsis of a recent Pork Checkoff study gives a different
perspective on the pork industry. The Point of Decision Meatcase
Study offers insights into meatcase shopping behavior through innovative
research methodology. First, through an observational analysis,
consumer shopping behavior was observed, then a brief intercept
survey was done after the shopper had made a meat selection.
The meat department is the highest grossing department in the
supermarket. For 83% of shoppers in this study, it is a planned
weekly shopping destination. Most consumers (80%) planned on buying
meat before arriving at the store, but many didn't know the cut
until they got to the meatcase. Beef and pork purchasers were more
likely to decide on a specific cut at the meatcase, perhaps because
there is greater variety of cuts to consider compared to chicken
and ground beef (Figure 1). Consumers re-evaluated their meat purchases
on every shopping trip. As a result, shoppers spent more time shopping
the meatcase than the grocery aisle. Consumers spent 4 minutes,
on average, making their purchase decisions at the meatcase, compared
to only 1 minute for all other food categories.
Pork Industry Research and Extension Strategies Conference
The ever-changing pork industry is constantly working to discover
and apply the latest technologies for pork production. The Pork
Checkoff is highly involved with this process. Earlier this spring,
more than 60 people met to discuss the future of the pork industry
regarding research and extension needs.
The goal of the meeting was to establish priorities for the industry
throughout the entire pork chain. The meeting examined the topics
of swine health, animal care and welfare, environmental and housing
technologies, feeding and breeding challenges, product issues,
business challenges, and biotechnology issues. The Pork Checkoff
is in the process of developing a document to communicate the results,
which will be made available throughout the pork industry.
Producer PRRS compendium
The Pork Checkoff has created a producer-friendly document on
porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus. Due
to the increased body of knowledge since the 1998 version, an updated
literature review has been developed. The PRRS Compendium Producer
Edition is an abridged version of the 2003 PRRS Compendium, Second
Edition, and is available to help producers understand the latest
scientific literature on PRRS. The Producer Edition is a more concise,
applied collaboration of PRRS information. It provides an overview
of many aspects of PRRS virus clinical signs, epidemiology, interaction
with other pathogens, and control strategies. Also, a chapter entitled "A
Producer's Guide to Managing PRRS Virus Infection - What Do You
Need to Know?" has been created and included only in this
Producer Edition, to serve as a framework for developing a farm-specific
plan to controlling the disease. For a more in-depth discussion,
individuals are encouraged to reference the full Second Edition.
For a copy of the PRRS Compendium Producer Edition, contact the
National Pork Board.