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Ethically raised Christmas ham

Increasing interest in animal welfare means that there are a range of options for where your ham comes from this Christmas. What should you look for if you want to tuck into a ham from an ethically raised pig?

You’ll find hams from four main production systems on supermarket shelves this year: conventional hams, sow stall free, free range and “outdoor bred, raised indoor on straw”. So what do these labels mean?

Conventional hams

Conventional hams come from pigs farmed in intensive systems, where both sows (mother pigs) and piglets (the pigs that your Christmas ham comes from) are housed indoors.

Sow stall free

Around 75% of pig production in Australia is now “sow stall free”, after the pork industry introduced a voluntary phase-out of sow stalls. Coles brand pork products are sow stall free, and Woolworths has committed to using stalls for less than 10% of the sow’s pregnancy (of around 115 days).


There are some free-range Christmas hams in the major supermarkets this year. However, just 5% of the Australian pig herd is free range.

In free-range systems, such as the RSPCA-approved outdoor system and Australian Pork Certified Free Range, both sows and piglets live outside in paddocks. They have access to shelters, wallows and shade.

Outdoor bred

There are a few hams around labelled “outdoor bred, raised indoors on straw”. These used to be labelled “bred free range”, until the ACCC took action against some producers using this label for misleading and deceptive conduct.

Hams with this label come from production systems where the sows live outside. They live under free-range conditions and are not confined to sow stalls or farrowing crates.

So what ham should I buy?

You can vote for better animal welfare by buying the most ethical ham you can afford, whether that’s a sow stall free ham from one of the major supermarkets or a free-range one from a small-scale producer at a farmers’ market.

The authors: Rachel Carey, Research Fellow, University of Melbourne; Christine Parker, Professor of Law, University of Melbourne; Gyorgy Scrinis, Lecturer in Food Politics and Policy, University of Melbourne


How to pick an ethically raised ham this Christmas (The Conversation)

Large image: The Conversation