November 6, 2008


Thai producers come up with new strategies to improve pork quality


From low-tech herb-based feeds to high-tech screening, Thai pork producers have been working hard to overcome withstanding problems of poor quality meat.


Sampran Farm is among the operations that have succeeded with the traditional approach. It mixes herbal plants such as turmeric, fah thalai jone (andrographis paniculata), guava leaves and cat’s whisker in the meal for pigs of different ages.


The company firmly believes in applying local wisdom by using herbal plants to strengthen animal health instead of dosing them with antibiotics that would emit hazardous residues and raise concerns among consumers over hygiene.


Director of Sampran Farm Co, Subin Treeranuwat said they company has tried natural-bred farming for a few years and the results have been positive. The pigs are healthy and provide better quality meat will fewer odours.


The herbal approach was due to the amount of hard work and experimenting by farm staff and veterinarians in an attempt to avoid the use of antibiotics, reported


For example, guava leaves are put in the feed for piglets to prevent indigestion. Wild mustard and fah thalai jone are added for bigger pigs weighing between 30 and 70 kilogrammes to strengthen their lungs and livers whereas turmeric are fed to adult pigs of 70-100 kilogrammes can promote a healthier lifestyle for the pigs and in return, have tender and juicy meat.


Sampran Farm also breeds pigs on a free-range farm, which is rare in local farming practice. About 6,000 pigs at its 100-rai farm in Kao Sadet in Ratchaburi are allowed to roam around, with shady areas and ponds to help them keep cool.


Mr Subin said this environment lessens stress at the farm and before slaughtering which is essential in meeting the requirements of the international Animal Welfare rules.


Free-ranges farms are rare and big raisers have opted for closed-farm systems for better disease control. Diseases such as dysentery, babesiosis and pseudorabies have hurt the Thai swine industry, encouraging the use of antibiotics but causing worry among foreign and local buyers over sanitation.


Some producers apply advanced and costly technologies to prevent pigs from contracting diseases at an early stage. Betagro Group, the country's largest pork producers, applies a specific-pathogen-free system (SPF) to keep parent breeders free of major diseases. This includes having to raise them on a site in Prachinburi where no other pig farms are found near a distance, thus reducing the risk of diseases spreading. The disease-free breeding cuts the need for antibiotics.


Betagro has invested over one billion baht (US$28.5 million) over the past five years for SPF pork including 270 million-baht (US$7.7 million) in its slaughterhouse, 400 million-baht ($US11.4 million) for its processing plant and the latest investment, a 190 million-baht (US$5.4 million) predigreed pig farm. The company reduces 1,500 – 1,700 pigs daily to supply its food business and exports.


Kriengmas Punchai, senior vice-president of swine integration, said while the market for higher-quality meat is rising, the volume remains small compared with meat from traditional farms.
Thailand produces 16 million pigs a year, over 90 percent from traditional farms.
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