A new project that aims to improve the breeding, feeding and husbandry techniques used in indoor pig production has been launched by Sainsbury’s.

The first area the ‘pig concept farm’ will tackle is to find a more welfare-friendly alternative to farrowing crates. To do this, the supermarket will work with an intensive 1200-sow indoor pig farm in East Yorkshire to trial prototype designs this summer.

“Our customers expect us to lead the way in animal welfare,” Sainsbury’s agricultural manager Annie Graham said. “We did it with higher welfare chicken and eggs from battery chickens and we feel that the time is right to improve conditions for pigs.

“Because we are a major pork retailer, any positive changes we make to the farrowing system will benefit millions of pigs in the future.”

She said the supermarket was responding to increased customer demand for welfare-friendly production systems. Sainsbury’s research suggests that one-fifth of shoppers say that knowing about animal welfare standards is one of their key drivers of product choice, which is up from 13% in 2008.

Last September it introduced a new range of Freedom Food-endorsed outdoor bred pork and is adding another five product lines, including shoulder, neck fillets and belly.