Pigs

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We pay our pig farmers a FAIR PRICE

Times are difficult for British farmers right now – pig farmers in particular have been pushed to the brink by the loss of markets, labour shortages and the rocketing price of feed and production. So we’re investing £16 million in their long-term future.

Read Waitrose executive director James Bailey's pledge to pay British pig farmers a fair price here.

Award-winning supermarket for animal welfare
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We STRIVE to keep our pigs HAPPY

  • All our piglets are born outside – that's the meaning of 'outdoor-bred', a term used on our packaging. Waitrose was the first supermarket to promise this. 

  • Our breeding sows live outdoors in the fresh air for their entire lives. We never use confinement stalls or farrowing crates, and we never will.

  • All our fresh pork comes from British farmers we know and trust – and that includes sausages, bacon, British ham, gammon and any ingredients in prepared food and ready meals, such as sandwiches and pies.

  • Pigs reared for our Essential pork have comfortable, light and airy barns lined with fresh straw. They have more room to move around than the industry standard set by Red Tractor.

  • We avoid tail docking and teeth clipping, and only ever allow it when it’s recommended by a specialist vet for the benefit of the pig – for example to prevent tail biting, or to protect a sow’s udder. We’re researching ways in which we can reduce the need for this even further.
  • In recognition of the consistently high animal welfare standards upheld by our farmers, we have held Compassion in World Farming’s Good Pig award since its inception in 2012. We also beat 27 other retailers to be named Best Retailer in Europe in 2019, when we won the award for the third time in a row.

  • All our pig farmers follow high animal welfare standards, which set out requirements on all aspects of how the animals live, from what they eat to the amount of outside space they have. As well as free range and organic, they cover pigs on farms supplying pork for the Essential Waitrose range, and the meat in ready-meals and pies.

  • When it’s time for the animals to leave the farm, our dedicated processor, Dalehead, makes sure the journey takes as little time as possible. The average is 3.5 hours, which is under half the maximum eight hours required by Red Tractor. Our relationship with Dalehead goes back more than 25 years.

MEET the farmer

If you’ve ever wondered what a contented pig looks like, look no further than Michael and Ian Baker’s Norfolk farm. Living in the open air, where they can dig about and wallow in mud as they please, these are very obviously happy animals. “We give them a good quality of life,” says Michael, “with lots of space to roam.”

The Baker brothers’ free-range pigs live in small herds, each on a two-acre plot, with a canvas tent for protection from sun and rain, straw beds and access to fresh water whenever they want it.

On David Homer’s farm in Wiltshire, the cows are busy doing what cows like to do: grazing on lush, green grass, lying down to chew the cud and, from time to time, lifting their tails to help David out with a supply of fertiliser. ‘‘You only have to look at them to see they’re happy to be out,’’ says David. ‘‘They like being in the fresh air and grazing on the fresh grass.’’

Back in 2016, David’s cows featured in a television advert for Waitrose, highlighting our grazing promise.

‘‘We keep an eye on the weather and the ground conditions, and how much grass is available, but they’re usually outside by the beginning of March,’’ says David. ‘‘That first day, you can see how pleased they are to get out – they bounce about with their tails up, and hop and skip around. Then they’ll graze through the summer into the autumn, and we won’t bring them indoors until it gets cold and wet, around the first week of November.’’

image of a pig farmers, Michael and Ian Baker

Michael and Ian Baker are committed to trying out ways to improve animal welfare on their Norfolk farm 

‘It’s very satisfying to see the result of all that hard work – healthy, contented stock'

“In the 30-plus years the farmers have been supplying Waitrose, Ian and Michael have raised their already high welfare standards. “We’ve found better ways to do things and keep trying to improve,” says Michael. 

Switching to feeding the sows from a long trough, rather than from the ground made a big difference. “It means in winter the sows can easily get to the food. It’s not just fired across a muddy field where it gets tramped in,” says Michael. It also makes sure the pushiest sows don’t – excuse the pun – hog the food. “Because they’re all eating in a line, it’s easier to check each sow is feeding,” says Ian.

“Our team here on the farm put in a lot of hard work and dedication, looking after the pigs the way we do,” says Michael. “It’s very satisfying to see the result of all that hard work – healthy, contented stock.”

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