Sustainability of Pork production with immunocastration in Europe

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Abstract

Immunocastration, a technique to replace surgical castration of piglets, consists of two consecutive vaccinations to induce antibodies which transiently suppress testicular functions and avoid boar taint. It is a method to ensure both a high product quality and a high level of animal welfare. The impact of immunocastration on the three pillars of sustainability has been studied extensively. While all aspects of sustainability have been studied separately, however, a contemporary global overview of different aspects is missing. In immunocastrates, performance results are better than in barrows, but worse than in boars. The environmental impact of pork production with immunocastrates is lower than with barrows, but higher than with boars. The level of aggression is considerably lower in immunocastrates compared to boars. Societal concerns are mainly related to food safety, and are not supported by scientific evidence. After second vaccination, immunocastrates switch from a boar- to a barrow-like status. Therefore, the timing of second vaccination is a fine-tuning tool to balance advantages of boars with environmental and economic benefits against increased risk of welfare problems and boar taint. Nevertheless, both synergic and conflicting relationships between the pillars of sustainability must be communicated along the value chain to produce tailored pork products.

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Kress, K., Millet, S., Labussière, É., Weiler, U., & Stefanski, V. (2019). Sustainability of Pork production with immunocastration in Europe. Sustainability (Switzerland). MDPI. https://doi.org/10.3390/SU11123335

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