The British pig industry is hoping to boost its welfare credentials with a new way of measuring the welfare of pigs.

The Real Welfare project aims to develop objective criteria that will allow veterinary inspectors to assess welfare on farms, regardless of which production system is used.

It is being led by the University of Bristol veterinary school and has received funding from Bpex. The Red Tractor assurance scheme is working on how the new criteria can be integrated into its own standards, with a view to start using Real Welfare next year.

Red Tractor CEO David Clarke said it was hoped Real Welfare would give the industry a framework for assessing welfare on its own terms rather than “quibbling” about detailed standards.

“This approach should give some confirmation of the welfare of the stock irrespective of how this has been achieved,” he added.

Earlier this month, an advert describing Red Tractor pork as “high-welfare” was rapped by the ASA for not being clear about the fact it was comparing Red Tractor to EU minimum standards.

However, Clarke stressed that Real Welfare was not a kneejerk reaction to the recent bad press.

“This project has been in the making for a few years and is continuing an EU project on welfare that dates back even longer,” he said.

Real Welfare is specific to pigs, but Red Tractor is involved in similar projects for other animals through the AssureWell project, which also involves the RSPCA and the Soil Association.