The big interview – How are your pigs, Mr. Hörtenhuemer?


Horrific images of pig factories bring an entire industry into disrepute. Manfred Hörtenhuemer (47) is a third generation pig farmer. A conversation about animal welfare, fully slatted floors and an industry that the consumer does not understand.

He stands there neat and tidy, the “Moar z’Hof” with its spacious stables and a Trinity chapel. Roses bloom in the garden, schnapps is distilled from fruit and nuts, bee colonies provide honey. All organic, you might think. More than 1000 pigs live here in 100 boxes on fully slatted floors.

In an interview, Manfred Hörtenhuemer, also chairman of the local farmers in Steinerkirchen near Wels, describes the pressure under which conventional pig farming will come.

Crown What went through your mind when you saw the photos of dead and seriously injured pigs from a Lower Austrian fattening farm?
Manfred Hortenhuemer: I was amazed. These are terrible circumstances. A super melting point. And suddenly all pig farmers are under general suspicion. As a farmer, I absolutely cannot imagine how it could come to this. If one of our pigs is injured, we separate it immediately. We have our own small station where sick animals can recover.

This company even had the AMA seal of approval. How is such a thing possible?
I don’t understand that either. We also have this quality mark and are regularly checked, also by the animal health service. Stricter guidelines for the AMA quality mark apply since 2022, the pigs must now have 10 percent more space, at least 0.77 square meters. That should be 25 percent more by 2030.

That is, an animal does not even have a square meter of living space?
Correct. The animals should all be able to lie together relaxed, and they are.

Relaxed lying on fully slatted bases?
See for yourself – Manfred Hörtenhuemer leads us to the piglets, who are actually sleeping peacefully on the floor. When they hear us, they wake up and walk around restlessly.

These animals never see the sky or the meadow. How do you tell how your pigs are doing?
We take good care of them, they always have fresh water and they eat the grain that we grow ourselves. barley, wheat, maize. broad beans and rapeseed. We work with our pigs every day and we know what they need. Our animals do not suffer. But to be fair, this is not a petting zoo. This is meat production.

Pigs need to wallow, root. They can’t do that without bedding on these floors.
My parents used to have straw stables, but there are no workers for that anymore. Then partly slatted floors. When it gets dirty, the animals lie in their own feces and urine and the stench is unbearable. Over the past 20 years, we have gradually changed. Fully slatted floors are a proven system.

A system that is not sustainable. Would you be willing to give up your slatted floors completely and switch to another system?
It depends. We have already been intensively working on this question. We are not unaffected by the criticism in the media. But a conversion would cost us millions. We would have to build completely new stables. Who can afford this? The financial support cannot be that great. I’m afraid we won’t be able to live off it. And that there will be a mass death of farmers.

How well can you live on your pig manure now?
We get the animals from our breeder when they are 10 to 12 weeks old. Born in Austria. Then they are fattened until they go to the slaughterhouse. A pig yields 230 to 240 euros. As a piglet it costs me 90 euros, plus about 100 euros in feed costs, and the trend is increasing. So you can find out what’s left.

Do you love pig farmers?
Yes, I do it with a lot of passion and great physical effort. It’s a responsible job. And a lot is changing in the direction of sustainability. In this process everyone from consumers to politicians needs to work together, then maybe we can do it. The labeling requirement is a first step. Then the consumer can decide. Because he has meat produced in Austria or does he not care?

Where do you see the biggest problem?
Pork production is moving further and further away from the consumer. He only sees the cute pig from the commercial, with which the corporations propagate an ideal world. But this world does not exist. This is purely a marketing gimmick.

Do you still eat pork yourself?
In fact, we are proud of our meat. From time to time we have an animal slaughtered for us and then use everything from bones to stilts. There are also bread dumplings and coleslaw. And yes, everyone likes it.

If you could wish for anything, what would it be?
We work with full dedication for our animals and must also be able to live on it. We don’t want to constantly have to defend ourselves for this.

Source: Krone


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