The EU pig meat sector
The 150 million pigs reared across the EU represent the largest livestock category before that of bovines, and the EU pig meat sector alone accounts for nearly half of total EU meat production. Germany, Spain and France contribute more than half of the total amount of pig meat produced in the EU. The sector is highly diverse, with huge differences in rearing methods and farm sizes across the Member States: from backyard farming to industrial installations with thousands of animals. Within the common agricultural policy (CAP), the pig meat sector is covered by the common organisation of markets regulating trade and providing support in the event of a sectoral crisis. Farmers can also receive rural development funding under the second pillar of the CAP, for example, to make necessary investments on their farms. A large number of EU legislative acts apply to this sector, covering various aspects of pig farming: environmental protection, food safety and public health, organic production, animal health and welfare. However, evidence shows a lack of compliance with EU regulations on the welfare of pigs and the persistence of harmful routine practices. Another challenge is the air, soil and water pollution caused by intensive pig farming, which takes a heavy toll on the environment. The EU is currently the world’s top exporter of pig meat products and its exports have been boosted by the fall in production in Asia, where African swine fever is decimating millions of animals. Increased demand for EU pork pushed prices to a peak in early 2020. In the coming years, the pig production sector may be impacted by the evolution of the policy environment: negotiations on a new CAP are ongoing and the recently published Green Deal initiative and Farm to Fork strategy, both of which promote greener and more sustainable agriculture and food systems, mention the future revision of legislation relevant to the pig sector, including on animal welfare.
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