Swiss Review 4/2022

STÉPHANE HERZOG Clouds are gathering on the horizon of Develier, a village located five kilometres from Delémont. Noël Saucy stands on the doorstep of his house. Offering his hand and a sincere smile, he gestures towards his home. The Saucy family has worked here for five generations. In 2002 they invested in a separate farming operation, located 200 metres further uphill, where we discover a four-metre-high shed with 180 square metres of floor space, inhabited by 2,000 laying hens. Nearby, Noël's wife, Agnès Saucy, checks and cleans the eggs moving past her on a conveyor belt. Each egg is dated and marked with a zero, a sign that it comes from a farm conforming to Bio Suisse standards. Between 1,600 and 1,900 eggs are laid here every day, before being sold on to a wholesaler for 47 cents each. The Saucy family turned its back on conventional farming methods in 2002, as the village cheese dairy was about to switch over to organic. The transition took two years. Their farm already had 1,000 laying hens and by 2007 that number had increased to 3,000 over two buildings. An organic farm can keep a maximum of 4,000 hens, and a single coop is allowed half that number. In conventional farming, 18,000 laying hens may be kept in a single building, and 27,000 chickens for fattening can be kept together until they reach 28 days of age. “Organic farming is more demanding. We were proud to make a successful changeover. We’re more aware now of certain elements as they relate to nature,” says Noël, whose products can be found on the shelves of Migros supermarkets. Nevertheless, this fact does not stop the 57-year-old from being opposed to the initiative against intensive livestock farming, which will be put to the Swiss population in a referendum on 25 September. “If everyone goes organic, our products will no longer stand out,” he says, contrary to the views of Bio Suisse. Animal feed and welfare at the centre of the debate In Develier, the Saucy family's laying hens live in conditions that are very different from those of battery hens, which have been banned in Switzerland since 1992. The birds are able to move freely about in an aviary and lay their eggs in darkened nesting boxes. They peck around in a shed with a straw-strewn floor and have access to an outdoor area covered with wood chips. In good weather, they can flap around in a pasture and seek out shade under the spreading fruit Initiative against intensive livestock farming sparks debate — even in the organic sector Boasting support from the Franz Weber Foundation and Greenpeace, the initiative against intensive livestock farming is calling for the Bio Suisse criteria to become standard. Farmers are divided, including organic producers. A report from the Jura. trees. The hens are productive for 11 months before they are slaughtered and replaced by 18-week-old pullets. On this farm, the free-range area for these hens must provide a minimum of five square metres of land per bird. Conventional poultry farming only requires half that space. At the Saucy farm, the feed they use is cultivated organically, and chicken manure is applied as fertiliser on site. “For the past 20 years, we’ve used absolutely no commercial fertiliser on our fields,” says the Jura native, whose farming operation also has 45 dairy cows. All of the fodder is produced right on the farm. On the subject of animal feed, Alexandra Gavilano, a food specialist at Greenpeace, points out the considerable environmental burden that results from importing soya and cereal grains to feed animals. She regrets Among other demands, the initiative is calling for farm animals to be given sufficient living space and guaranteed animal-friendly husbandry. Here we see chickens on the Bio-Hof Saucy organic farm. Photo: Stéphane Herzog Swiss Review / August 2022 / No.4 26 Politics