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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

Swine Welfare Assurance Program frequently asked questions

Q: What is the Swine Welfare Assurance Program?
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?
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, and consumers.

Q: How does SWAP measure on-farm swine welfare?
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 the facilities.

Q: Does SWAP apply to all producers and production styles?
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?
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?
: 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?
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 program.

Q: How does this program compare with the PQA Program?
: 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?
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 producer booklet.

Q: Is SWAP mandatory?
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 of SWAP?
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.