The UK produces pigmeat to a higher production standard than elsewhere in the EU and beyond but at the highest cost, the Farm Animal Welfare Council has said.

In a letter to Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead last week, FAWC chair Christopher Wathes said the UK had a higher proportion of extensive production systems than other European and non-European countries.

Sixty five per cent of finishing pigs in the UK were being bred in systems with straw bedding compared with no more than 10% in other European and non-European countries, he added. Yet the UK had higher production costs than other countries as a result of legislative differences and voluntary measures.

UK self-sufficiency in pigmeat fell from 84% in 1998 to an all-time low of 50% in 2006, said Waithes in the letter, which will be seen as a boost to pig farmers, who have been campaigning for higher prices this year in response to higher animal feed costs.