Sainsbury's are introducing new farming techniques to improve the welfare of millions of pigs, thanks to practices developed on a pioneering 'Concept Farm' based near Driffield in East Yorkshire.
A new trial at the Morgan's family farm at Porkthorpe has started to look at the benefits of over 70 farrowing systems or 'Freedom Pens' on site, which aim to provide a safer environment for sows and piglets while they are suckling.
Other farms could benefit if the trial is successful and traditional systems could be replaced, creating a safer environment and a better quality of life for pigs across the country.
Annie Graham, head of agriculture at Sainsbury's said: "The Concept Farm is a totally new, revolutionary way of working to trial new ideas that combine sustainability and improved animal welfare. By sharing our findings, we ensure that our other farmers benefit and have sustainable, cost effective techniques in place for the future, without compromising productivity. Because we are a major pork retailer, any changes we make to the farrowing system will benefit millions of pigs in the future.
"Our customers expect us to lead the way in animal welfare. We have already made a difference with better animal welfare and we are the largest retailer or Freedom Food products in the UK."
Sainsbury's will be sharing progress about the prototype farrowing system at the Yorkshire Show this week, when they meet dozens of farmers from the area. New deals could also be struck as the regional buying team meet farmers and growers from across the region to discuss potential new contracts.
Since 2009, the retailer has been working in partnership with the Morgan family, who run a herd of 1,200 sows, to trial new methods. The aim of the collaboration is to strive for greater animal welfare and improve sustainability on farms. Currently, the Morgan family provide over 800 pigs a week to Sainsbury's for fresh pork products, including sausages and ham.
Sainsbury's provide additional funding for the Concept Farm to trial breeding, feeding and husbandry techniques and to pilot new and alternative ways of working.
Vicky Morgan from the Concept Farm at Porkthorpe, said: Working in collaboration with Sainsbury's has been fantastic and is a great partnership for our business and the future of the British pig industry as a whole.
"The Freedom Pens will ensure that our pigs are able to nest build which is very important to the sows prior to farrowing. The sows will be able to move around and we are hoping that this will increase their appetite and help them milk better, to produce a healthier piglet. In turn, we hope that Freedom Pens will have a positive impact on productivity and longevity and be a higher welfare system of indoor pig production.
"We are extremely proud of our farm and how we look after our pigs, but we believe that as an industry and a business we should always be striving to improve and look after our animals."
Sainsbury's is one of the key sponsors of the Great Yorkshire Agricultural Show and will have a new stand which includes cooking demonstrations and an interactive 'Field to Fork' display about where food comes from and the process it goes through from farming to appearing on supermarket shelves.
Sainsbury's agriculture, buying and technical team will be at the show meeting new suppliers about stocking more local produce, from sausages to cheese and veg.
Notes to editors
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Sainsbury's works with over 17,000 farmers and growers and has over 900 supermarkets and stores across the UK.