Pig Welfare in Ireland: Free-Range vs Factory-Farmed, Which is Better?

After watching Philip Boucher-Hayes’ documentary What Are You Eating? this evening, I struck up an interesting conversation with Shane McAuliffe of Truly Irish foods.

I was curious to know, given the clear pride Shane has in the products he promotes, if the Truly Irish brand was free-range.  I received a prompt response:

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Curious at this answer and admittedly skeptical, I wanted to hear more and so invited two more people into the conversation Oldfarm and Inagh Freerange Farm.

Just for some background information from their websites:

Truly Irish

“Truly Irish Country Foods is a farm based business established by pig producers throughout the island of Ireland with shareholders who are based in every county in Ireland. We supply exceptionally high quality pork for sale in the local and international market place. The Shareholder has full control of his product from farm to market”

Oldfarm

“Our mission is to bring you the taste of ‘real’ Irish Pork and Bacon! To this end we produce tasty, succulent free-range pork and bacon which we deliver directly to your door. Our pigs are fed on a completely gmo-free and organic diet which ensures clean, healthy meat”

Inagh Freerange Farm

“Inagh free range pork comes from animals born, raised and allowed to mature at a natural pace on grass without hurrying the process. The pork retains all the old fashioned virtues of succulence, tenderness and full flavour, is sumptuous and delicious, and makes proper crackling. There is a little more fat than commercial pork – but that’s where the tenderness and succulence comes from. The pork from each breed has its own characteristic taste and texture”

As you can imagine, the conversation escalated quite quickly with evident passion and resulted in a heated discussion on pig welfare in Ireland.

Surely being out in their natural environment is a good thing? According to Shane, this isn’t the case:

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(Alfie McCaffrey is also from Oldfarm.ie)

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I asked Shane to provide me with a link to some of the articles he mentioned and he shared this one: Pig Crushing Mortality by Hut Type In Outdoor Farrowing.

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Briefly touching on what organic and free range, actually mean and the types of feeds that animals get, it was an insight for me on what strong differences in opinion farmers and producers had on rearing animals.

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All three farms invited me to visit their premises to find out more about how they reared their pigs – an offer which I think I’ll definitely take up in the future.

What do you think? What’s the ideal way to rear pigs in your opinion? Are there real benefits to free-range?

Let me know in the comment section below.

(Lead Image courtesy of Inagh Freerange Farm.  Unfortunately for some reason my blog doesn’t allow me to properly embed tweets, so I’ve done my best to screengrab them and put them in the proper order. For information on Pigmeat Quality Assurance Scheme in Ireland from Bord Bia you can click here)

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