Pig production

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Piglets in a flat deck compartment
Sow suckling her piglets

The pig production (including pigs ) includes the systems of production of products of pigs . The main product is pork , the most common livestock is the domestic pig .

Production (global and EU)

The largest pork producers in the world
rank country Production
(in thousand t )
(in thousand t )
1 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 43,951 44.3 50,232 46.1
2 United StatesUnited States United States 9,953 10.0 10,333 9.5
3 GermanyGermany Germany 4,985 5.0 5,598 5.2
4th SpainSpain Spain 3,544 3.6 3,469 3.2
5 BrazilBrazil Brazil 2,480 2.5 3,258 3.0
6th VietnamVietnam Vietnam 2,553 2.6 3,040 2.8
7th RussiaRussia Russia 1,873 1.9 2,400 2.2
8th FranceFrance France 2,281 2.3 1,998 1.8
9 CanadaCanada Canada 1,894 1.9 1.923 1.8
10 PolandPoland Poland 2.151 2.2 1,811 1.7

In 2007 99,211,931 tons and in 2011 a total of 108,951,000 tons of pork were produced worldwide. The largest producers are China, the USA and Germany.

In 2011 a total of 148,548,000 pigs were fattened in the EU. Of these, 18.3% were held in Germany, 17.1% in Spain, 9.3% in France, 8.8% in the Netherlands, 8.7% in Poland and 8.3% in Denmark.

In 2017 there were around 150 million pigs that were fattened across the EU. Of these, 30 million were held in Spain, 27.6 million in Germany, 13.1 million in France, 12.8 million in Denmark, 12.3 million in the Netherlands and 11.9 million in Poland.


Pedigree pigs

Several hundred breeds are available, but only a few make up a large proportion of the production. These breeds used worldwide were bred in Western Europe and North America in the early 20th century. In pig production, crossings of different breeding lines within one breed and crossings of different breeds are mainly used. Pure breeds are used less frequently and lose their importance in favor of hybrids . The Large White or Yorkshire pig offers very high daily weight gains, very good litter sizes (11–13) and very low-fat meat and is therefore the most common breed. Landraces are established in the USA and many European countries , the most famous representatives of which are the Danish Landrace and the German Landrace . The darker pigmented Duroc pig is as widespread in the USA as the Large White and is also becoming increasingly important in Europe. The Hampshire pig is black with a white belt known and less for its litter size as for its beef production. The black and white pied Pietrain pig used to be relatively nervous and tended to eat PSE meat . Due to its excellent muscling, it is now of great importance as a father breed for fattening pigs because it was re-bred to "NN stress resistance".

While the European and North American breeds exported to Australia, New Zealand, South America, Southeast Asia and Japan and whose genetic diversity has already been significantly reduced, are primarily geared towards high reproduction rates, daily weight gain and low fat content, there are still many in other parts of the world that are still less breeding in terms of breeding edited breeds that are less low in fat and slower growing. Taken together, they are genetically more diverse and therefore, in addition to their nutritional function, are still important for large parts of the population as a gene pool for future breeding programs.

Hybrid pigs

90% of all pigs today come from hybrid breeding . Hybrid breeding distinguishes four stages;

There is basic breeding ( inbred line ), multiplication breeding ( grandparent farms ), piglet production ( parent farms ) and piglet fattening. In the grandparents' farms, the pure-bred mother and father lines from basic breeding are crossed. Only gilts from the grandparents' farms are used in the parent farms, as these are then inseminated with sperm from crossbred boars. The resulting piglets are then the actual hybrid pigs for fattening (or also called fattening pigs). The hybrid piglets are used exclusively for fattening. They are not suitable for further breeding, as the desired properties would be lost again in the following generations. Hybrid breeding has meant that numerous pig breeds are already extinct or endangered. The German landrace is now the most important mother breed in Germany. Genuine breeding lines of this breed form a basis for the hybrid breeding programs. The term hybrid breeding describes the procedure in pig breeding rather vaguely. In the narrower sense, this describes a multi-racial cross . To produce inbred products with a sufficiently high homozygosity would be too expensive in terms of both time and money, since it is not foreseeable beforehand whether the cross-breeding products would produce correspondingly higher performance.

The mother sows are selected based on their genetic health, weight gain and meat quality characteristics. Insemination boars supply up to several hundred sows with high-quality sperm.

The providers of pig genetics for hybrid breeding and gilts for fattening include the companies German Genetic / SZV, PIC , TOPIGS , BHZP GmbH , Hülsenberger Zuchtschweine GmbH , Hypor NWE and other companies from all over the world such as Denmark and Canada.

A future breeding goal are pigs without boar odor, which would make castration superfluous.

Hybrid breeding pigs

A hybrid pig that is registered in a breeding register is called a hybrid breeding pig . However, this legal term goes beyond that and includes races, lines, or crosses. Therefore, it is not just a question of “hybrids” in the usual sense of the word (Recital 37 and Art. 2 No. 10 of Regulation (EU) 2016/1012 ).


An exemplary production cycle lasting 305 days, which usually several hundred animals go through in parallel, begins with conception and ends with transport for slaughter . A gestation period of 115 days is followed by a 3 to 4 week suckling period, then a 6 to 7 week rearing period and finally an 18 week fattening period. These production steps either all take place within one company ( closed system ) or are divided between several specialized companies. With the closed system , the farms forego any additional purchase of animals and only participate in the breeding progress through the boar semen. With the increased use of hybrids , however, the breeding stage is often outsourced to specialized farms, and piglet production is sometimes separated from fattening.

Free range on the Millstätter Alpe in Carinthia

Free range

In the alternative free-range husbandry, around 15 sows per hectare of flat area are kept. Convertible tin or wooden huts with litter are used as weather protection. After one year of keeping pigs, the area should be used for plant cultivation. This species-appropriate husbandry enables high animal performance with low investment and slightly higher feed expenditure, but is less environmentally friendly than stable husbandry due to the uneven distribution of faeces and urine.

Domestic pigs in crates with automatic feeding
Piglet rearing in 1952 near Berlin

Piglet rearing

The most important indicator of piglet production is the number of piglets raised per sow and year. The lower the number of piglets and the longer the time interval between litters, the more the individual piglets are burdened with the sow's fixed costs (maintenance feed, equipment costs, electricity, veterinarian, stud fee, etc.). A young sow is optimally mated for the first time from the 230th day of life with a weight of 130 kg through natural jumping or artificial insemination (in the USA about 60%). Group farrowing is common today, with mating and weaning every 1 to 4 weeks. The advantages are labor savings , group noise, targeted birth monitoring and vaccination appointments , higher rearing performance (litter compensation), interruption of infection chains and larger piglet lots, disadvantages are the higher stall space required by leading several herds and the higher boar load when natural breeding takes place.

During pregnancy , the sows are usually kept in groups and assigned individual feeding places, which allows a targeted supply of nutrients depending on age, nutritional status and gestation stage and prevents injuries from other sows. While gilts should continue to gain weight during pregnancy, old sows should retain about the same weight after birth as they were before pregnancy ("fit, not fat"). The rations are therefore somewhat energy-reduced with higher fiber contents and higher water capacity .

The newborn piglets stay with the mother until they weigh about 5-7 kg. In addition to castration, vaccinations are carried out. From the second week onwards, the piglets are used to concentrate feed, also to compensate for the increasingly inadequate milk production of the sow for optimal performance. For the complete regression of the uterus, the sow needs about three weeks, after which the piglets are weaned and the sow is mated again in order to achieve at least two litters per year and sow.

Castration of a pig

Piglet castrations are carried out because the meat of boars develops an unpleasant odor (from androstenone and skatole ) in 3 - 10 percent of cases and would only be suitable for dried meat or salami production.

The castrations are usually carried out in the first days of the male piglets' life. The Piglet Stunning Ordinance of 8 January 2020 ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 96 ) regulates the stunning of male pigs (piglets) under eight days old for the purpose of castration by other competent persons than veterinarians, including the requirements for the expertise of these persons as well the procedure of castration under anesthesia. Until July 13, 2013, Section 5, Paragraph 2, No. 1a of the German Animal Welfare Act exempted from anesthesia, until the end of 2020 at the latest, Section 21, Paragraph 1 of the German Animal Welfare Act, according to which analgesic veterinary drugs are to be used, still applies temporarily . In Switzerland, piglets have had to be anesthetized during castration since 2010. In some cases, there are already solutions because, for example, the German producers who belong to the QS scheme are only allowed to castration under anesthesia or after the administration of analgesic drugs.

In Austria, as in many other countries, male piglets are castrated in conventional agriculture without anesthesia. Painkillers are compulsory in Austria. In July 2018, the Austrian organic industry agreed to castrate pigs that are marketed in food retail only under anesthesia.

The docking of tails is a standard measure to the cannibalism submissions. Since there are no or hardly any nerves in the last third of the tail, the pigs often do not notice at first that a conspecific is chewing on its tail. Good husbandry conditions can minimize problems in advance; usually improved climatic conditions or simple activities such as chains or pieces of wood that the animals can chew on are sufficient to prevent problems with cannibalism.

The canine teeth of piglets are ground down in order to prevent injuries from bites under the piglets themselves or on the mother's sow's teats. Anesthesia is not carried out during grinding. However, it is a painful procedure for the piglets, which can also lead to reduced performance due to side effects. A standard implementation of grinding on all piglets does not comply with the Animal Welfare Act. According to § 5 TierSchG, such an intervention may only be carried out as a result of an indication in individual cases, e.g. if the sow or littermates are injured. In practice, grinding is often done.

Sow with piglets in a modern crate

Piglet-leading sows are kept in crates with built-in feeding troughs and piglet protection cages. The main purpose of the piglet protection cage is to avoid crushing losses. Next to the 65–70 cm wide lying area of ​​the sow is the 60–80 cm wide lounge for the piglets (with piglet nest, piglet feed trough and own drinking trough), on the other side an approx. 40 cm wide escape area for the piglets. The piglet nest is often supplemented by a special mobile electrical device, the so-called piglet blower , for better protection of the piglets .

Litter in the farrowing pen is possible and offers advantages especially for the piglets, but is more difficult to clean ( solid manure method ). A farrowing pen with no litter offers economic advantages; it has to be constantly heated under the floor in winter. The floor is partially perforated, but at the same time has to be sure-footed ( liquid manure method ).


Piglets weighing 25–28 kg are fattened from 110 to 125 kg after rearing until they are ready for slaughter. The key figure for fattening is the daily weight gain, as this affects the building, electricity and labor costs per animal. Successful companies reach more than 850 g. When it comes to fattening, primarily protein should be used. The demands on the quantity and quality of the protein in the feed are correspondingly high . The supply of essential amino acids is important. Animal meal and fish meal are ideal for this, but animal meal is banned in some countries such as the EU, and fish meal is relatively expensive. The most important source of protein is therefore soy meal , which also has a favorable amino acid composition; 99 percent of the pigs in Germany are fed genetically modified soy . Field beans , peas and rapeseed meal are also used, but are less suitable. Basic feed for the supply of calories is grain such as wheat , corn and barley . Root crops such as potatoes or beets , corn grain products (e.g. corn silage ), skimmed milk , whey , stillage , brewer's grains and kitchen waste are also fed, but are not optimal. The feeding of contact soup (infectious food that stimulates the immune system) is no longer considered appropriate.

Pigs in concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), USA

The fattening house designed to maximize performance and minimize workload should be well ventilated and insulated. The stocking density must not be too low in order to avoid rank battles among the pigs. Around a dozen animals are kept in a pen in the main fattening area. The most popular form of housing, because it minimizes work, is the Danish housing , which is characterized by a trough that is as long as the stable and is not interrupted by any door so that all pigs can eat at the same time. Behind it, the approximately 150 cm deep lying areas are separated by partition walls for the various pens. From the lying area the animals get into the approx. 125 cm wide manure passage, which can be cleaned by closing the lying area access. The partial column bottom as a further having Danish stabling in the manure passage 2 cm wide gaps for the passage of the faeces.

Keeping quality

As wild animals, pigs spend 70% of their time foraging and ingesting food. The fact that the animals can only perform their typical behavior to a limited extent, such as grooming, social behavior, exploring, rooting and scratching, depending on the condition of the barn, is criticized in the housing. Behavioral disorders that pigs can develop as a result include chewing empty , bar biting and mourning , tail or ear biting and cannibalism . You can try to counteract this behavior by giving them straw and other activities. The corresponding special entertainment quality in pig production in the pig husbandry be found in organic farming. Organic pigs must not be kept on fully slatted floors. Litter and at least one paved run are mandatory. A free run in a pasture is not required.

The meat atlas published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in January 2016 shows that the number of pig fattening businesses has fallen dramatically over the past 20 years. At the same time, total production increased enormously. Since 1994 nine out of ten fatteners have given up and the number of farms has fallen to 27,000. Meanwhile, thanks to numerous large farms with over 50,000 animals, annual pork production increased by almost 50 percent from 3.7 million tons to 5.5 million tons. Significant violations of the Animal Welfare Act were repeatedly found in the fattening farms.



In Switzerland, voices are being raised calling for meat to be traced. An electronic ear tag can help ensure efficient pig traceability.

Legal basis

From the Middle Ages to modern times , pig fattening in forests was defined by fattening law.

In Germany the keeping of pigs is regulated by the second section (§§ 2, 2a and 3) of the Animal Welfare Act (TierSchG) as well as by the Animal Welfare and Farming Ordinance (TierSchNutztV) and the Pig Keeping Hygiene Ordinance.

Specifically, for example, the TierSchNutztV stipulates that stables put into operation after August 4, 2006 must have daylight penetration of at least three percent of the stable area, unless this is not possible due to structural engineering and design (Section 22). Furthermore, the space requirements of so-called breeding runners and fattening pigs are regulated. Animals with a body weight between 30 and 50 kg are entitled to 0.5 m² of unrestricted usable floor space, animals between 50 and 110 kg 0.75 m² and animals over 110 kg 1.0 m² ( Section 29 ).

A judgment from 2015 states that the existing crate stalls have not met the requirements of the husbandry ordinance since 1992. The husbandry ordinance states that "pigs must be able to stretch their limbs undisturbed when lying on their side" .

In Austria, the essential legal bases for pig farming are the 1st Animal Husbandry Ordinance and the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Husbandry Ordinance defines general husbandry regulations for pigs, special husbandry regulations for sows and gilts, suckling pigs, weaners, fattening pigs and breeding pigs, boars and miniature pigs. The Animal Welfare Act defines general provisions for handling and keeping animals as well as special provisions, enforcement, and penal and final provisions.


Criticism from animal rights activists refers to what they consider to be significant deficiencies in pig production in numerous large-scale breeding facilities, the inadequate controls by the responsible offices and the attitude of the political leaders. A consumer survey from 2016 found that meat consumers view the close animal husbandry and lack of employment opportunities for animals as problematic.

Although a majority of consumers say they consider animal welfare to be important, less than 1% of the pork sold in Germany is from organic animal breeding.

See also

Web links


  • Colin T. Whittemore, Ilias Kyriazakis: Whittemore's science and practice of pig production. 3. Edition. Wiley-Blackwell, 2006, ISBN 1-4051-2448-2 .
  • Steffen Hoy, Martin Wähner: Paperback pig: Pig breeding and keeping from AZ. Ulmer, 2009, ISBN 978-3-8001-5721-1 .

Individual evidence

  1. a b FAO (2009): FAOSTAT. Rome.
  2. http://www.vdf.de/download/SHOW/zahlen_daten_fleischwirtschaft/welt/welt_schweinefleisch/
  3. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&language=de&pcode=tag00042
  4. Federal Ministry of Agriculture, EU pig population 2011 (PDF; 11 kB)
  5. eurostat, December 20, 2018, accessed on January 10, 2019.
  6. ^ A b c d e John McGlone, Wilson G. Pond: Pig production: biological principles and applications. Cengage Learning., ISBN 0-8273-8484-X .
  7. ^ A b C. Whittemore, I. Kyriazakis: Whittemore's science and practice of pig production. Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.
  8. aid infodienst - nutrition, agriculture, consumer protection e. V. (funded by the Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection), pig breeds and pig breeding
  9. a b c d e f g h i J. Weiß, S. Granz: Tierproduktion. Georg Thieme Verlag, 2005.
  10. Jürgen Wolfgang Weiß, Wilhelm Pabst, Susanne Granz: Tierproduktion , Georg Thieme Verlag, 2013, Chapter 4.1.2 Systematic crossbreeding ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  11. ^ Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture, Dr. Uwe Clar, Lecture 2012, Which genetics are suitable for piglet producers and fatteners?
  12. ARD Kontraste: The pain of piglets - unnecessary cruelty to animals in pig breeding. ( Memento from June 30, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  13. Pig farmer on the Animal Welfare Act. "Sex in the stable? Who does that? ”Taz.de, December 12, 2012, accessed on December 14, 2012 (interview with Thomas Gardewin, conducted by Jost Maurin).
  14. ^ Bavarian State Institute for Agriculture, Institute for Animal Breeding: Animal Welfare - Castration and Boar Smell
  15. ^ Parliamentary initiative Switzerland
  16. 1st Animal Husbandry Ordinance, minimum requirements for keeping pigs 2.10.4 , accessed on January 10, 2019.
  17. Land Creates Life , accessed January 10, 2019.
  18. ^ Report of the Scientific Veterinary Committee: The Welfare of intensively kept pigs. (PDF; 731 kB) September 30, 1997, p. 139 f.
  19. Pig breeding and pork production. Recommendations for practice. Wilfried Brade, Gerhard Flachowsky, 2006, p. 110 , accessed on December 10, 2015 .
  20. The foodwatch meat and bone meal report
  21. Without genetic engineering seal: Sales continue to grow , Lebensmittel Praxis, April 21, 2020, accessed on April 26, 2020.
  22. Pig breeding and pork production. Recommendations for practice. Wilfried Brade, Gerhard Flachowsky, 2006, accessed December 10, 2015 .
  23. Land Creates Life, accessed January 10, 2019.
  24. Frankfurter Rundschau of January 13, 2016
  25. ^ ZDF report on conditions in animal factories. Retrieved November 8, 2017 .
  26. Nicolai Kwasniewski: Emergency killings in the pig fattening : Torment for profit. In: spiegel.de . October 22, 2019, accessed January 19, 2020 .
  27. F. Burose, M. Zahner: Do pigs need electronic identification? Survey on benefits and costs.  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.agroscope.admin.ch  
  28. Laws on the Internet: Second section of the Animal Welfare Act
  29. ^ Judgment of the Higher Administrative Court of the State of Saxony-Anhalt on the keeping of pigs in crate stalls is final , from November 23, 2016 in Bverwg.de
  30. 1st Animal Husbandry Ordinance Austria
  31. Austrian Animal Welfare Act
  32. Animal in focus : Swiss pig report. In: schwine-report.ch. Retrieved December 11, 2018 .
  33. TV report on factory farming. Retrieved November 8, 2017 .
  34. THE TIME The pigsty . Retrieved November 8, 2017 .
  35. Pig production - in line with the market and happy? In: Deutschlandfunk Kultur . ( deutschlandfunkkultur.de [accessed on November 6, 2018]).
  36. Adrian Altmayer, DER SPIEGEL: SPIEGEL TV on animal rights activists in the pigsty - DER SPIEGEL - Panorama. Retrieved February 4, 2020 .