“Laying off the castrated pig”

Qui will live, see … no more boars. The question of the castration of the pig is indeed of a burning topicality. It fed into the debates of the National Pork Federation (FNP), meeting in conclave in Pau, Friday 11 June. With, in sight, a deadline: the 1er January 2022. On this date, the ax will fall on a very widespread practice in France, namely the live castration of piglets. A decision taken by the Minister of Agriculture in January 2020 to “Put an end to painful practices on farms”. The host of the Rue de Varenne was then Didier Guillaume, whose head fell a few weeks later, during a palace revolution.

Some animal defense associations have been choosy, denouncing the principle of castration, even under anesthesia. Already, some actors had anticipated the movement. Like the powerful Breton pork cooperative Cooperl. “Today, in France, there are 70% castrated pigs and 30% whole pigs”, explains Guillaume Roué, president of the Inaporc inter-professional organization.

“Production cost differential”

If the animal welfare argument is brandished in the eyes of the consumer, the economic stake weighs just as much. How ? 200 grams. It is very little, you will say. Let M. Roué take the calculator. A whole pig is less greedy and therefore consumes 200 grams of food less to deliver a kilo of meat. By adding the additional cost of the castration anesthesia, you obtain a reduction in the cost price of 7 euros per pig. “On a farm, the production cost differential can reach 18,000 euros per year”, estimates Mr. Roué. The count is good for the whole pig.

So, lay off the castrated pig? The industrialists of the South-West do not hear it that way. They evoke the smell of meat, but also its quality, too lean, to make cured ham or sausage. The breeders therefore discuss the end of fat. If the salt workers want the castrated male, they will have to pay more. The FNP asks that the reference of the Breton pork market henceforth be the whole male or the female, both placed equally. And that the castrated male is differentiated.

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The Plérin dial market in the Côtes-d’Armor continues to play the role of a compass. Thursday, June 17, the kilo of pork was trading at 1.54 euros. It had melted at 1.2 euros per kilo at the end of 2020, before recovering its health in early 2021. Except that the price now seems to be leveling off. China, whose herds have been decimated by African swine fever since the summer of 2018, has reportedly put the brakes on imports. Temporary shutdown to cool overheated markets? Starting up new breeding complexes? Or wipe the pig with the towel?