Where does your Christmas ham come from?
More than 85% of Australians choose to eat meat, and for many ham is a big part of their Christmas. However, some of the hams on Australian supermarket shelves come from countries that don’t raise pigs right.
In countries like the US and Canada, most mother pigs are still kept in cages – sow stalls – for their entire pregnancy. Cages that are so small the mother pigs don’t even have enough room to turn around. That’s 119 days of pain, distress and boredom. It’s cruel, and it must end.
European countries, are better: the rules say they can only keep mother pigs in cages for 28 days, and in some countries not at all. But a full phase out is still needed.
The good news is Australian pig farmers are getting mother pigs out of cages. In 2010 the industry decided voluntarily to end the use of cages for all but five days, and that now applies to up to 90% of Australian mother pigs. Coles has gone even further and restricts the use of cages for mother pigs to one day.
This commitment puts Australia ahead of most other pig producing countries, except for a small number of places in Europe.
There is still more to do. Pigs in Australia could be treated better. We’re working to see an end to unnecessary mutilations, enriched environments, and ultimately want to get mother pigs out of confinement after birth. But overall, if you buy Australian Christmas ham you are buying it from farmers who have better welfare standards than most countries from which Australia imports pork.
Information for shoppers
The problem for shoppers who want to avoid lower welfare meat products is our inadequate country of origin labelling. New laws that came into force in July mean the label must tell you if the pork is Australian but if it isn’t, the labels don’t tell you which country the pork comes from.
So Australian shoppers have no way of knowing if the ham came from, say, a higher welfare Dutch farm, or an American farm where mother pigs suffer in cages for their entire pregnancy.
We’ll continue to work to improve labelling laws in 2019 and ask all major supermarkets to give their customers the information they deserve by properly labelling all their home-brand pork products.
We’ve investigated the Christmas hams on supermarket shelves and given a green ranking to Australian hams, which are generally higher welfare, and a red to hams which don’t have any country of origin information, which are likely to be from countries with lower welfare standards.
We’d also encourage you to look at the animal welfare information on the label and on company websites and choose those that have the highest standards.
It means you can use your purchasing power to be part of our campaign to raise pigs right, while supporting Australian farmers.