Industry should set the pace on assurance
Industry needs to set the pace of quality assurance schemes, not retailers, according to Mark Wilson, BPEX director of pig industry development.
He agreed with the views of leading UK veterinarians during a debate at a seminar organised in association with John Mackinnon Consultancy and Pfizer Animal Health.
Discussions delved into whether quality assurance schemes, along with abattoir monitoring, production recording and benchmarking, were swamping the industry with too much red tape.
Simon Watchorn, vice chairman of the National Pig Association's producer group, made a strong case for quality assurance schemes and said it was important for these to appear credible to the supermarket and that spot checks were one way of ensuring this.
Mark Wilson, BPEX director of pig industry development, said it was important the industry viewed assurance schemes as valuable systems. He added it was vital industry minimised duplication when asking producers to fill in forms and said that new technology, such as digital pens, which record information on a camera and, using bluetooth technology, stores it on a database, were helping the industry to achieve this.
He added: "These assurance schemes need some explanation from the providers and from the BPEX knowledge transfer team so that producers can see that these schemes have some value for their business."
Ian Denis, partner in Oakwood Veterinary Group, said: "Our role as vets has changed," he said.
"Rather than being the policemen, we are now involved in helping to ensure that herd health is good and that husbandry standards are high. This is how it should be."
John Mackinnon, another UK leading pig vet, said he felt that health and food safety issues should be separated from welfare. He added: "The industry should work more closely with research establishments to develop more realistic techniques for the assessment of welfare in all production systems.
"Slatted flooring does not necessarily mean poor welfare and outdoor production does not necessarily mean good welfare. Much depends on the ability of the stockpersons."
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