Organic pigs are kept in conditions that, as far as possible, allow them to express their natural behaviour. This includes being kept in family groups with free access to fields when conditions allow. In practice this means that most organic pigs will be outdoors all year round, though indoor housing is permitted in severe weather conditions, provided that there is plenty of straw bedding for the pigs, and continued access to an outdoor run.
Pigs are natural foragers - they enjoy rooting (their natural instinct to dig up the grass with their nose) and exploring. They are highly inquisitive, social animals and have a language which contains some 40 different expressions for passing on information.
To ensure animal welfare, the Soil Association bans several practices that are common in the non-organic pig industry. For example:
- Nose ringing - this is used to prevent pigs from natural rooting behaviour
- Tail docking - pigs in confined spaces often bite each others tails, so non-organic producers dock tails to prevent this
- Farrowing crates - these are small metal cage only inches wider than the female pig, which are used around the time she gives birth to restrict her movement and prevent her from following maternal instincts.
Pigs fit into organic rotations well because they add fertility at the end of a grass ley. To prevent the build up of parasites it is recommended that once pigs have been on a piece of ground, they do not return to it for four years.