, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 687-706

Consumer Attitudes Towards Alternatives to Piglet Castration Without Pain Relief in Organic Farming: Qualitative Results from Germany

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In order to avoid the occurrence of boar taint, castration of piglets without pain relief is a common practice in pork production. Due to increasing animal welfare concerns, the practice will be banned in organic agriculture from 2012 and alternative methods will have to be implemented. An important factor for the successful implementation of such alternatives is consumers’ acceptance of the methods, as consumers’ daily buying decisions are crucial to the further development of the organic pork sector. Thus, this paper explores organic consumers’ attitudes towards piglet castration without pain relief and three alternative methods and examines which aspects of these alternatives are important to consumers of organic products. The analysis of nine focus group discussions in Germany conducted in fall 2009 and involving a total of 89 participants, shows that castration without pain relief in organic farming was unacceptable for participants. Animal welfare, food safety, taste, and costs were principal aspects that participants used to assess the three alternatives. Participants had mainly favorable attitudes towards castration with anesthesia and analgesia. Although participants had some concerns regarding the fattening of boars (taste), there was openness towards this alternative due to its perceived naturalness. Immunocastration was seen quite critically because participants feared that this alternative might lead to (hormone) residues in meat. Overall, the results suggest that fattening of boars and castration with anesthesia and analgesia could be acceptable alternatives to consumers of organic pork.