Hans Aarestrup, head of the Danish organization for swine producers, Danske Svineproducenter, told Swedish Radio’s news programme Ekot on Monday that about half a million piglets are killed every year for "humane" reasons.
“Instead of waiting for the weakest pigs to die, we kill them. The most humane way is to grab them by their hind legs and hitting them on the floor,” he said.
In the latest edition of Danske Svineproducenter’s magazine, they estimate that a farm with one thousand sows could save half a million Danish kroner a year if they put down all newborn pigs weighing less than a kilo, under the headline “Could it be a win-win situation to kill pigs at birth?”.
“I think it could be a win-win,” Aarestrup told Ekot.
Ulrika Borg, press secretary for Swedish supermarket giant the Ica Group, reacted on Monday afternoon and said that the company would be following up on the news.
"For us it is important that no animal suffers for nothing and that the farmer follows guidelines in their country, in this case Denmark," she told The Local.
"We have not spoken to Denmark before about this particular issue, but we will have to follow this up."
The news has stirred debate in Sweden, with some taking to social media to voice their criticism. The editor of one Swedish food magazine tweeted: "If you need another reason to boycott Danish pig, it's being served up here…"
Om du av något skäl behöver ytterligare ett argument för att bojkotta dansk gris serveras det här…http://t.co/PqCGipkdh6
— Mats-Eric Nilsson (@MatsEric) February 23, 2015
Margareta Åberg, pig expert for the Federation of Swedish Farmers, told The Local that the procedure could not happen in Sweden.
“No, we only put down pigs if they are so ill that they cannot be cured. The goal is always that as many of them as possible should survive,” she said.
“We want to maintain these high standards. I think Swedish food companies have acted forcefully on this. My perception is that there is an awareness that selling meat of animals brought up in good conditions is well worth it in the end.”
It is not the first time Danish meat production has come under fire in Sweden. In November last year a random sampling of pork in supermarkets found high amounts of the resistant MRSA bacteria in meat imported from Denmark and Germany.
But a struggling domestic market and less red tape abroad have led to increasing imports of Danish meat. Pork imports have doubled in the past ten years and about 40 percent of the pork we eat comes from abroad, according to the Federation of Swedish Farmers. Last year Sweden imported 142,000 tonnes of pig products, with three quarters of that amount coming from Denmark and Germany.
“The main reason is that it costs a lot more to produce pigs in Sweden, because there are a lot more rules, both our own policies and laws, which regulate how the animals are kept,” said Åberg.
“I would like my grandchildren to be able to choose Swedish meat in stores in the future, but unfortunately the future doesn’t look bright. We’re importing more and more meat, and I think that is a shame.”
At Ica, 80 percent of their pork comes from Sweden and the remaining 20 percent from Denmark.
"The problem is that customers are price sensitive and Danish meat is cheaper than Swedish. But we have run campaigns trying to promote Swedish meat," said Borg.