PigCare misleading consumers
“Consumers are being misled.”
Sue Chetwin, Consumer New Zealand, on PigCare
‘PigCare’ is NZPork's labelling marketing scheme. It was launched by NZPork in 2010 and promoted as a seal of approval of high animal welfare. However, it does not require farmers to do any more than meet the minimum standards of the pig welfare code, allowing pigs to be kept in factory farming systems.
PigCare appears to be designed to fool people into believing that pigs at PigCare 'accredited' farms in New Zealand, are kept in conditions above the legal minimum standards, taking advantage of the trend for ethical labelling.
As was shown on Seven Sharp, PigCare can be extremely misleading. It allows the use of factory farming practices such as farrowing crates - a system that has been found not to meet the obligations of the Animal Welfare Act. Seven Sharp showed people footage of farrowing crates and asked if they thought the farm would get accredited, no one thought it would. When interviewed Sue Chetwin, from Consumer NZ, said “Consumers are being misled. They believe that PigCare means that the pigs have been raised to the highest sort of animal welfare conditions, when we know that they are actually only meeting the minimum conditions.”
To help people understand pork labelling we have fixed the Pork Board’s PigCare website for them, with a new updated version, PigScare, using photos from inside New Zealand pig farms. We hope the new site will clarify pork labelling in New Zealand, you can share it to help do that.
In 2013 and 2014 a farm with appalling conditions that hit the headlines was found to be PigCare accredited. The auditors deemed the welfare and health of the pigs acceptable, despite footage showing squalid conditions: a sow in a farrowing crate so tight that her new-born piglets were squashed to death; piglets dying next to their helpless mother; overcrowding of pigs being raised for meat with dozens of rats running over them; pigs with infected eyes; a dead pig left among living pigs.
In 2015, SAFE made a complaint to the Commerce Commission about the misleading nature of the PigCare scheme. After our complaint, and many more from the public, PigCare was investigated. At the end of 2016 the Commerce Commission notified the NZ Pork Board that they considered the PigCare labels may be misleading, that they may be breaching the Fair Trading Act and gave them compliance advice.
Following this, the NZ Pork Board changed the label to try to be more compliant with the law. The label is still clearly misleading in that it provides no animal welfare assurances above those required by law. The only thing it can say for sure is that the pigs are from NZ and you can see the state of NZ pig farms yourself.