According to the Welfare Quality index, the factors promoting the welfare of Finnish pigs include surroundings, high-quality bases, general health, the relationship between the carer and the animal, availability of water, the animal's condition and social behaviour – a low number of incidents of fighting and tail-biting. There was room for improvement in terms of the castration practices in piggeries. The study was conducted in 2011 before Atria made the decision to use painkillers when castrating pigs. This decision was made in October 2011.
The good results obtained by Finnish piggeries can be explained by factors such as the space available to animals and systematic health care work. In Finland, pigs have more living space than in central Europe. Atria requires its contract production farms to reserve at least 0.9m2 for each pig. The EU requirement is 0.65m2.
Prevention of illnesses also has a direct connection to well-being. A nominated veterinarian visits the farm to conduct systematic health care work every 2–3 months. Health care visits take account of the farm's tidiness, temperature, ventilation, animal cleanliness, various symptoms of illness and the use of medication.
A study coordinated by the University of Helsinki included 124 randomly selected Finnish meat-producing piggeries. The majority of the farms were Atria's contract production farms. The measurement covered approximately 14 per cent of production volumes. As part of the Welfare Quality measurement, the farms were categorised into four classes: unclassified, acceptable, good and excellent. 56 per cent of the studied farms belonged to the "good" class, while 44 per cent were categorised as "excellent". None of the Finnish piggeries studied were rated as low "acceptable". None of the comparison farms in other countries achieved a classification of "excellent". 42 per cent of the international farms attained a category of "good", while 59 per cent were classified as "acceptable".
Welfare Quality is a system for measuring the welfare of production animals. It was developed by a network of international researchers and focuses on animal welfare by giving an overview of the state of welfare on the farm.
Pork marked with the Laatuvastuu (quality responsibility) label
Meat marked with the Laatuvastuu label is produced on farms that belong to a certified national programme concerning animal health and product safety. In practice, this means that the farms are constantly at the Sikava national level. All of Atria's contract farms are Laatuvastuu farms. When the producers provide chain information, they also provide assurance that all of the animals they send for slaughter are from locations that were at the Sikava national level on the date of collection for slaughter.
Laatuvastuu is based on the Sikava health care and monitoring system for pigs, which is maintained by Animal Welfare (ETT) and which enables information to be transferred between farms, industrial companies and veterinarians. Sikava is used to monitor the implementation of health care programmes, carry out health classifications for pig farms and communicate current affairs.
Find out more about Laatuvastuu on this page: http://laatuvastuu.fi/ (available in Finnish only).