Docking the value of pigmeat? Prevalence and financial implications of welfare lesions in Irish slaughter pigs

S. Harley, L. A. Boyle, N. E. O'Connell, S. J. More, D. L. Teixeira, A. Hanlon

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Expansion of the meat inspection process to incorporate animal-based welfare measurements could contribute towards significant improvements in pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) welfare and farm profitability. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of different welfare-related lesions on the carcase and their relationship with carcase condemnations (CC) and carcase weight (CW). The financial implications of losses associated with CC and CW reductions related to the welfare lesions were also estimated. Data on tail lesions, loin bruising and bursitis, CW and condemnation/trimming outcome (and associated weights) were collected for 3,537 slaughter pigs (mean [± SEM] carcase weight: 79.2 [± 8.82] kg). Overall, 72.5% of pigs had detectable tail lesions, whilst 16.0 and 44.0% were affected by severe loin bruising and hind limb bursitis, respectively. There were 2.5% of study carcases condemned and a further 3.3% were trimmed. The primary cause of CC was abscessation. While tail lesion severity did not increase the risk of abscessation, it was significantly associated with CC. Male pigs had a higher risk of tail lesions and of CC. The financial loss to producers associated with CC and trimmings was estimated at €1.10 per study pig. CW was reduced by up to 12 kg in cases of severe tail lesions. However, even mild lesions were associated with a significant reduction in CW of 1.2 kg. The value of the loss in potential CW associated with tail lesions was €0.59 per study pig. Combined with losses attributable to CC and trimmings this represented a loss of 43% of the profit margin per pig, at the time of the study, attributable to tail biting. These findings illustrate the magnitude of the impact of tail biting on pig welfare and on profitability of the pig industry. They also emphasise the potential contribution that the inclusion of welfare parameters at meat inspection could make to pig producers in informing herd health and welfare management plans. © 2014 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-285
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Welfare
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal welfare
  • Carcase
  • Economics
  • Meat inspection
  • Pig
  • Tail biting


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