Pork production represents a significant economic factor in Germany. The figures are in the multiple millions. Given the magnitude, it is difficult to realize that behind each number is an individual pig. An individual with its own life, inherent value and history.
The numbers nevertheless provide an important foundation for the debate surrounding factory farming. They help to gain a better understanding of the scale of animal production in Germany. The figures make the dimension of the exploitation of pigs in agriculture visible.
Over the years, there has been a structural change in pig farming towards larger and larger farms. Commercial pig farming is predominantly common on farms with several thousand animals. There, the animals are mostly kept on slatted floors. Organic pig farming with somewhat higher husbandry requirements is negligible at 0.8 percent.
Almost 48 million pigs were killed in German slaughterhouses in 2022. The number of pigs slaughtered has been declining for several years.
Pig production in Germany is closely linked to European pig farming. Germany imported nearly 8 million piglets and young pigs, mainly from Denmark and the Netherlands. In the same year, Germany exported about 1.7 million pigs to other EU countries, mainly to Hungary.
In November 2022, the Federal Statistical Office surveyed a total pig population of around 21 million pigs in Germany. Per year, there are actually significantly more pigs living in German barns. "Fattening pigs," for example, are slaughtered after about six months of life. However, they do not spend their entire lives on the fattening farm, but are raised for several weeks beforehand on the pig breeding farm. Thus, a fattening farm may have several fattening runs per year. The survey of the pig population in a reference month therefore does not represent the entire pig population living in Germany in a calendar year.
The following table shows the development of the pig population in Germany over the last ten years. The stock numbers have decreased significantly (1)
(1) Statistisches Bundesamt (2023). Betriebe mit Schweinehaltung: Deutschland, Stichmonat, Schweinekategorien. 41313-0001. Stand: 23.06.2023.
It is well known that "fattening pigs" in particular are kept on farms with many thousands of animals. In 2022, nearly 55 percent of fattened pigs lived on farms with more than 1,000 "fattening pigs."
According to the legal husbandry requirements, livestock operations must have "a sufficient number of persons with the knowledge and skills necessary for this purpose" to feed and care for the animals (2). But there are no upper limits on the number of pigs to be cared for per person. The larger the number of animals, the more difficult it is to provide individual care.
The Federal Statistical Office collected the following figures for November 2022 (3):
Keeping several thousand animals is also common in pig breeding. About 85 percent of the so-called breeding sows live on farms that keep more than 1,000 animals. And although only about five percent of German farms keep more than 5,000 "breeding sows" about one-third of all female "breeding pigs" live there.
On large breeding farms, it is common practice to induce births artificially. In this way, the amount of work can be planned and the farm produces piglets according to a fixed schedule.
The Federal Statistical Office published the following figures on size classes in pig breeding farms in Germany (4):
(2) § 4 Tierschutz-Nutztierhaltungsverordnung in der Fassung der Bekanntmachung vom 22. August 2006 (BGBl. I S. 2043), die zuletzt durch Artikel 1a der Verordnung vom 29. Januar 2021 (BGBl. I S. 146) geändert worden ist.
(3) Statistisches Bundesamt (2023). Betriebe mit Mastschweinen: Deutschland, Stichmonat, Bestandsgrößenklassen. Stand: 23.06.2023.
(4) Statistisches Bundesamt (2022). Fachserie 3, Reihe 4.1, November. Viehbestand am 3. November 2022.
The majority of pigs in Germany, over 99 percent, are kept on conventional farms. In 2020, out of a total of 31,852 farms, only 1,566 operated according to organic standards. They kept 212,455 pigs. This means that in 2020, only 0.8 percent of pigs were kept according to organic standards (5).
(5) Statistisches Bundesamt (2023). Viehbestand in Betrieben mit konventionellem und ökologischem Landbau 2020. Stand 02.07.2021.
The 2020 agricultural census showed that slatted floor housing is still the standard in Germany. Nearly 96 percent of the percent of housing sites have full or partial slatted floors. The fully slatted floor is particularly widespread at 80 percent.
In addition, very few pigs have access to the outdoors: of the total of just under 28 million places where pigs are kept, only 337,800 have an outdoor run. The Federal Statistical Office states that there are 37,900 housing places with access to an outdoor run for breeding sows. It does not publish how many fattening pigs have access to the outdoors (6).
Germany engages in extensive trade in pigs. In 2022, Germany imported a total of just over 9 million live pigs. Germany imported a combined 7.8 million piglets and young pigs from neighboring Denmark and the Netherlands alone. In the same year, Germany exported about 1.7 million live pigs to other EU countries (7).
Germany exports mainly pigs to Hungary, Austria, Poland, Romania and Spain. The following table shows the distribution of exported animals. The long transport distances through the European Union are particularly stressful for the young animals.
Germany mainly imports pigs from Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. But also from the neighboring countries Czech Republic and Luxembourg. The following table shows the distribution of imported animals:
In addition to the keeping and transport of pigs, slaughtering in particular is a central component of pig production in Germany.The number of pigs slaughtered in Germany has decreased in recent years, but still stands at just under 48 million animals. In contrast, over 10 million more pigs were slaughtered 10 years ago (8).
(7) Statistisches Bundesamt (2023). Aus- und Einfuhr (Außenhandel): Deutschland, Jahre, Land, Warenverzeichnis (8-Steller). 51000-0015. Stand 26.06.2023.
(8) Statistisches Bundesamt (2023). Geschlachtete Tiere, Schlachtmenge: Deutschland, Jahre,Tierarten, Schlachtungsart. 41331-0001. Stand 26.06.2023.
Consumption and eating of meat from pigs fell by about 10 kg per capita in Germany in recent years. Consumption is made up of consumption for human food, animal feed, but also industrial utilization and losses (including bones). Eating is calculated on the basis of an estimate by the Federal Market Association for Livestock and Meat (Bundesmarktverbandes für Vieh und Fleisch). The number corresponds to the slaughter weight without bones, animal feed, industrial utilization and losses.
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