More than half of Austria’s agricultural GDP derives from animal production. 86,000 farms hold 2.1 million cattle, of which 800,000 are cows. In the pork production, 3.2 million pigs are managed by 63,000 farms. The strongest growing sector within the animal production is sheep. Independent of the animal production sector, the welfare of animals is regarded with highest priority in Austria. Animal health and animal husbandry are key expectations of the Austrian consumers. Already several years before Austria joined the European Union stringent laws had been enacted to promote animal husbandry and animal health.
Good agricultural practices, eco-friendly farming, highest standards in animal welfare, and healthy, natural foods have synergies and therefore are considered as partners by the Austrian consumer. The use of growth hormones or antibiotics in Austrian farming as a preventive measure in feed is forbidden. Austria enacted the prohibition of feeding meat and bone meal to ruminants five years before the European Union placed a ban.
The Austrian Animal Protection Act is considered to be the most stringent law within the European Union. One example to highlight this pole position is the “Laying-Hen Directive of the European Union”, which foresees that since 1 January 2012, cages are forbidden. Austria already enacted this cage prohibition three years earlier and controls its proper implementation. Doing so, the conditions for laying hens had been substantially improved in terms of animal density, lighting, having adequate space for nests, and ventilation. This way, Austria can guarantee the highest quality of its produce and ensure a good life for the animals.