Based on Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) figures, approximately 0.8% to 1% of market pigs become non-ambulatory from fatigue or injury during transport or shortly after unloading. “Fatigue” is a temporary condition in pigs without obvious injury, trauma or disease. They fall behind their contemporaries as they are being moved and may refuse to take multiple steps. Most fatigued pigs recover if rested.
When the first case of BSE in a cow was found in the U.S., concern over non-ambulatory animals entering the food chain began to increase. There is no food safety risk from allowing fatigued pigs into the food system. Despite that fact, some legislators and activist groups are working to ban non-ambulatory animals, including fatigued pigs, from being processed for human consumption. That position robs consumers of safe, wholesome meat and creates an unnecessary burden on the environment.
NPPC opposes banning fatigued pigs from the food supply. Scientific evidence has shown that pigs are not susceptible to BSE. The American Association of Swine Veterinarians defines a fatigued pig as one “that becomes fatigued without trauma or disease and refuses to walk.” This condition is a result of an acid-base imbalance and is self-reversing after the animal is allowed to rest. Additionally, the USDA-FSIS monitors animal handling and slaughtering practices at packing plants, including the treatment of non-ambulatory and fatigued animals. All fatigued hogs are inspected by FSIS inspectors and veterinarians regarding their fitness for processing and entering the human food supply. Strong regulatory safeguards for humane treatment in the processing of animals already exist. The pork industry has developed a Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) Program to train all members of the pork industry on the handling and safe transport of pigs.
Banning fatigued pigs would eliminate approximately 41 million pounds of safe and wholesome pork from the food chain, as well as costing producers millions of dollars. This would greatly limit U.S. pork producers’ ability to provide a valuable, nutrient rich protein for the world’s food supply.