Healthy animals result in safer food

If food is to be safe, the animal it is made from must be healthy too.1 Is South Africa doing enough in all stages of farming and breeding of cattle and swine to create the safest and highest quality produce? Overseas, restrictive laws have been introduced, to ensure that all animals are at their healthiest, but what can we learn from the European way of thinking?


The One Health Concept


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has emphasised the strong relationship between the health and wellbeing of animals and public health. It is suggested that creating healthy cattle and swine is not only necessary for their wellbeing but also for maintaining and improving the health of consumers all over the world. In the European meat industry, the veterinary doctors and breeders are closely related to each other, adhering to the concept that the two are as one.


The Industry Standard Obligation


For many years, The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) has been working on introducing standards concerning the health and well-being of slaughter animals in Europe. This has created an industry standard obligation which is observed by cattle and swine breeders, and includes recognising the work of highly-qualified veterinary doctors. These doctors must access food-related risks on a daily basis, whilst supervising the procedures and laboratory methods of slaughter houses. This obligation ensures transparency in the food production chain and traceability of the animal farming process.


The Herd Health Plan


The food safety strategy known as the ‘Herd Health Plan,’ includes agreements between veterinary doctors and breeders for the performance of routine animal health inspections. Its main aim is to improve the health of a herd by focusing on good breeding practices, developing guidelines for use of veterinary drugs and animal feed additives, but also developing prophylactic plans aimed at prevention of spreading of diseases. Selected feed is always documented, and its content, nutrition value and volume are adjusted to the animals’ age and individual stages of their development.


The Animal Health Strategy


The animal health strategy, known as Community Animal Health Policy (CAHP) emphasises that all participants of the food production chain play a significant role in maintaining good health of animals, including farmers, veterinary doctors, carriers and slaughter houses. 2 The policy serves as a basis for all the mandatory rules in the EU concerning the health and wellbeing of animals, based upon the theory that prevention is better than a cure. This policy guarantees the safety of pork, beef, and their products, whilst raising awareness of farming procedures.


Who knows best?


It seems that international quality and safety of pork and beef produce is strictly supervised, which enables the production of safe food for consumers all over the world. The policies in place to ensure that only healthy animals make the production line, result in a minimal amount of stressful stimuli added and therefore meat of the highest quality. It is clear that Europe may be leading the pack with proper farming maintenance, but implementation of European systems could see an improvement in the treatment of South African swine and cattle, resulting in a healthier consumer nation.


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