UK supermarkets urged to stop selling caged Parma ham

Its rich, fatty flavor has made it a staple at dinner parties and trendy bistros, but a new report shows Parma ham’s production methods are less than savory.

More often than not, the pigs used to make the popular jerky endure “incredible suffering” on farms across Europe, the animal rights organization says.

On these farms, pregnant sows are kept in small metal boxes known as “sow stalls” that restrict their movement to sitting and standing only.

The Compassion in World Farming (CiWF) investigation found that EU producers are still using these cruel sow stalls, which have been banned in the UK since 1999.

However, the ham created from the pigs on these farms is still shipped to the UK and ends up on supermarket shelves, a shortcoming of the UK government’s ban.

Graphic footage filmed by CiWF shows sows being artificially inseminated and giving birth to babies that they cannot properly care for due to cramped cages.

Parma ham is a strong flavored Italian cured ham that is eaten raw and cut into thin slices. A new investigation reveals pig farms across Europe, some of which produce “luxury” hams including Parma ham, are subjecting pigs to “cruelty, torment and frustration”.

European farms keep pregnant sows in small metal boxes known as

European farms keep pregnant sows in small metal boxes known as “sow stalls” that restrict their movement to sitting and standing up (pictured)

CiWF, an animal welfare organization based in Godalming, Surrey, held the study this included visiting 16 farms in four different EU countries – Italy, France, Spain and Poland – between February 2022 and May 2022.

WHAT IS PARMA HAM?

Parma ham is a strong flavored Italian cured ham that is eaten raw and cut into thin slices.

It is cut from the hind thighs (buttocks and thighs) of a pig that is being fattened before slaughter.

Pig farms use artificial insemination of sows (adult pigs) to produce young animals that are slaughtered for meat.

Males are usually fattened for slaughter, while females are likely to be kept for breeding rather than slaughtered for meat.

The resulting footage, shedding light on the “cruelty, anguish and desperation” that pigs endure, came from 14 farms; on two Italian farms it was not possible to record images.

The CiWF study found that sows spend several weeks in cages so small that they are practically unable to move except to get up and lie down, endure lying in their own feces and urine, and experience the “pangs” of not being able to properly nurse their young due to confinement. cells.

The selected farms belong to different supply chains, from those supplying “premium” European consortiums such as Prosciutto di Parma and Jambon de Bayonne to those supplying traditional pork producers.

“People who pay more for products like Parma and Bayonne ham are likely to be shocked to learn that these ‘high quality’ products are produced by systems that keep animals in such cruel cages,” said Sarah Moyes, senior campaign manager.

“Our investigation shows that these farms are no better than standard farms – the animals still live in cages for a significant part of their lives, as do about 85% of sows in the EU.

“They are forced to live unimaginably miserable lives – they can’t move around, properly raise their young or exhibit natural behaviors, and they’re so frustrated that they resort to abnormal behaviors like bar biting.”

Some of the farms studied were Parma and Bayonne products, while others were more general hams.

We found the same underlying issues in all cases,” Moyes said. “The fact is that these luxury goods are made from pigs raised in the same cruel conditions.”

Moyes said CiWF would like to see all retailers, manufacturers and food companies make a commitment to producing cell-free food.

“Instead of buying products from Parma and Bayonne, we encourage consumers to consider buying meat from free-range or organic producers here in the UK, where pigs are kept outdoors rather than in cages, or opt for plant-based alternatives,” she said. said.

The CiWF study found that sows spend several weeks in cages so small that they are practically unable to move except to get up and lie down, endure lying in their own feces and urine, and experience the

The CiWF study found that sows spend several weeks in cages so small that they are practically unable to move except to get up and lie down, endure lying in their own feces and urine, and experience the “pangs” of not being able to properly nurse their young due to confinement. cells

The CiWF investigation included visits to 16 farms in four different EU countries - Italy, France, Spain and Poland - between February and May of this year.

The CiWF investigation included visits to 16 farms in four different EU countries – Italy, France, Spain and Poland – between February and May of this year.

While sow stalls are banned in the UK, farrowing crates are still allowed in the UK – metal boxes that contain the sow to reduce the risk of her lying on the newborn piglets and crushing them.

According to the RSPCA, today about 60% of sows in the UK are kept in farrowing pens during parturition.

CiWF has found that sows kept in farrowing crates have to endure the same terrible conditions as those in sow stalls and behave in the same way as frustrated nesting.

The UK Government has already committed to exploring the use of laying hens and farrowing hogs.

Farrowing cages - metal cages that restrain the sow to reduce the risk of her lying on the newborn piglets and crushing them - are legal in the UK and Europe.

Farrowing cages – metal cages that restrain the sow to reduce the risk of her lying on the newborn piglets and crushing them – are legal in the UK and Europe.

The EU had previously announced a cage culture ban that would come into effect by the end of 2023, and CiWF urged the EU to implement it “without delay”.

Approximately 8 million Parma-branded hams are produced annually in Italy, 36% of which are exported, with the US being the main export market with 757,000 hams sold in 2021.

Just under half of all exported Parma ham is sold to the EU, according to CiWF, although the UK is the main export market for pre-sliced ​​Parma ham.

About 1 million Bayonne ham, another cured ham that takes its name from the French port city of Bayonne, is produced annually in France.

Bayonne ham is reportedly exported to countries such as the US, Germany, Belgium, Japan and the UK, according to CiWF.

MailOnline has reached out to Britain’s “big five” supermarkets – Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose – for comment.

CiWF would like all retailers, manufacturers and food companies to commit themselves to cell-free food production.

CiWF would like all retailers, manufacturers and food companies to commit themselves to cell-free food production.

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s, which sells Parma but not Bayonne ham, said: “All of our suppliers must meet strict welfare standards and be certified under one of our approved farm insurance schemes in addition to complying with EU law.”

A Waitrose spokesperson also said the company is working to have all of its farms stop using sow stalls by 2025.

“Animal welfare is key to our brand,” Waitrose said in a statement. “We have paved the way for pig welfare in the UK and now we want to have no sows in our supply chain by 2025.”

Asda, which also sells Parma but not Bayonne ham, said: “All of our meats are sourced in accordance with EU and UK law.”

Tesco stated: “Animal welfare is incredibly important to us and all of our pigs are raised to recognized farm standards, in addition to our independently audited Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) requirements.

“Within these standards, we do not allow sow stalls in our supply chains.”

Morrison has not yet responded.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HAM AND BACON

The word “ham” comes from the Old English word “ham” and refers specifically to a piece of meat from the hind legs of a pig.

China claims responsibility for treating the first pig leg as early as 4900 BC.

Enthusiasm for it spread throughout ancient Europe along with the Romans, who probably learned of the practice while trading with the Chinese.

Modern methods of preserving bacon were invented in the mid-19th century by the Irishman Henry Denny.

He began curing bacon with ice in 1854. This made the bacon tastier as far less salt was used for preservation.

The history of Parma ham dates back to 100 BC, when Cato the Censor first mentioned the extraordinary taste of cured ham prepared in the city of Parma in Italy.

The legs were left to dry, lubricated with a small amount of oil and could age without spoiling. Delicious meat was obtained that could be eaten for a certain period of time while maintaining a pleasant taste.

Even earlier, in 5 BC, in the valley of the Etruscan Po River, salted canned pork legs were traded with the rest of Italy and with Greece.

Source: The Spruce Eats / Let’s Look Again / Emilia-Romagna Blog