Characteristics of Organic Pig Production and risk analysis concerning Toxoplasma infection

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperAcademic


A short written questionnaire was used to study certain characteristics of the organic pig production chain in The Netherlands and the circumstances on the farm that might play a role in the transmission of Toxoplasma infection to the pigs. Of the 81 certified organic slaughter pig farmers present in the Netherlands in 2006, 52 responded to the questionnaire (64 % response). The farms could be divided into two populations. One population was represented by small organic pig farms with a mean number of 55 slaughtered pigs per year. These farms covered 40% of the total number of investigated farms, but only represented 2.5 % of the total number of slaughtered pigs. The second population had a mean annual production of 1460 animals. Almost 95% of these animals are currently slaughtered and further distributed by the Vion Food Group (de Groene Weg). A small part of the pigs (4%) is directly delivered to a slaughter company in Germany (Thönes) and 1% is sold via farm home sales. For each farm an arbitrary Toxoplasma risk factor analysis was performed. Factors included the type of outdoor run (concrete or soil), feeding goat or sheep whey, number of cats, access of cats to outdoor run, stables and feed, rodent control and covering roughage fed to the animals. Calculation of the total risk score (summation of chance times severity scores for several factors) showed that many farmers already used management factors that decreased the risk for Toxoplasma infection. Analysis of a possible relation between risk score and farm size showed that a poor score was often seen on small farms. Because these farms mainly sell their meat in a frozen condition via home sales, this is not considered to represent a problem for food safety. Further research is needed to investigate whether the risk for Toxoplasma can be maintained via on farm prevention or whether a Toxoplasma monitoring program should be implemented at slaughter, possibly with post slaughter decontamination. The fact that a recent report by the RIVM on food related infections has concluded that Toxoplasmosis has a markedly higher disease burden than Campylobacter or Salmonella, emphasizes the priority this subject should be given on the research agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2007



  • organic farming
  • pig farming
  • infectious diseases
  • toxoplasma
  • animal health
  • food safety

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