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SSR Animal Welfare, Part I

Below is the first of a 3-part series of interviews with Ben Peyer, Director of Animal Welfare at Johnsonville, the parent company of SSR.  We’ll explore what animal welfare is in our industry, why it matters, and share examples of how we’re working to improve and share learnings with others.


Q: How do you define animal welfare?

A: An animal’s welfare is that animal’s subjective experience in the world.  A negative subjective experience is a fancy way of saying suffering; positive subjective experience is contentment or joy.  It’s about how animals feel, that’s it. 

My job is to lead Johnsonville’s animal welfare program.  This means making sure that every Johnsonville member treats animals with compassion and respect at every opportunity, but we have other tools as well.  We have considerable direct influence over welfare during transport and back on the farm.  Finally, we’ve put ourselves in a position to help researchers and industry-wide groups understand emerging issues in the pork industry.  Our work is potentially very broad in scope, but we focus our energies and influence on those areas that improve animals’ subjective experiences in the world as much as possible.  For us too it’s about how animals feel.


Q: Why is animal welfare an important issue?

A: The reason animal welfare is an issue at all is because animals suffer, and some sorts of animals – farm animals and lab animals included – suffer at a large scale.  One way of distinguishing modern industrial agriculture from animal-centric agriculture is the use of technologies that allow farms to increase their productive efficiency in ways that don’t improve the well-being of their animals.  Most farm animal suffering isn’t the result of cruelty, rather, it is the sad but entirely predictable outcome of a process driven by productive efficiency.

Why animal welfare is an important issue is different for every person and every organization, and the same person might have a different answer depending on the context in which they find themselves.  In nearly every case, however, the reason to care for and about animals is both personal conviction and good business. 

When I argue that a certain animal-care initiative is a good idea from a business perspective, my driving motivation is how the animals feel, while the business impact is (if I’ve done my job well) an effective lever for getting the right things done.  If the person I’m working with sees better animal care as a happy byproduct of a profitable business decision, that’s fine by me; more often, the person I’m working with is eager to implement any idea that makes things better.  There are no bad reasons to decrease suffering and increase contentment and joy.


Q: Is animal welfare the same as animal rights?

A: No. Farm animal rights are today not a topic of much conversation.  Organizations that work on animal rights, like Nonhuman Rights Project, argue that primates, elephants, and cetaceans (whales and dolphins) legally recognized as having “such fundamental rights as bodily liberty and bodily integrity”.  Animal rights are one specific way that some advocates are working to achieve better animal welfare, but not in the context of farm animals. 


Q: Why should “regular people” care about animal welfare?

A: Regular people do care about animal welfare, so I don’t think I need to make the case that they should.  The problem isn’t getting people to care about animals, rather, it’s getting people to act as if they care.  Most often, people don’t know how their choices are impacting individual animals, and don’t know which choices would be better.  So, to reframe the question (and provide an answer): “regular people” should act in a way that improves animals’ lives because doing anything else is entirely inconsistent with their actual sets of values.


Q: How can I get more involved in animal welfare on a local level?

A: I’m going to suggest everybody starts at a hyper-local level, that is, inside their own skulls.  Step one: decide for good that all animals are within the scope of our moral concern.  It matters how animals feel.  Step two: recognize that the choice of what we eat is an act of civic participation.  It is essentially a vote in favor of a certain type of food system.  Once we’ve accomplished these two hyper-local tasks, the rest will fall into place. 

Because every company is different, I suggest doing some research into how different organizations approach the topic of animal welfare to help inform your choices.  You can do this research at home (by finding information like this) or at the grocery store by paying close attention to labels.  The easiest in-store choice will be to only purchase eggs that have a third-party welfare assurance label (Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved are meaningful standards); better eggs are widely available and still a great value, and this “vote” will decrease the amount of suffering in the world. 

The next way to get more involved is to befriend a farmer!  Your local farmer’s market has been, until this year, a great place to find people who have made it their life’s work to raise animals with respect, compassion, and gratitude.  Farmers who are truly connected to their animals need people who care about animal well-being to be able to do their good work; those of us who are not farmers need somebody to grow our food in a way that is consistent with our values. 

We don’t need to let COVID19-related restrictions on things like farmer’s markets stop us, either. “A Greener World,” which is the organization that administers the “Animal Welfare Approved” standards, has a handy tool to help find products from farms that have passed their accreditation audit.  The executive director, Andrew Gunther, is a farmer and welfarist who thinks clearly and deeply about the central part that farmers play in improving animal welfare for farm animals.


 [In Part II of our Q&A, we’ll talk further with Ben about farm animals and pose the question, does raising animals for food go against animal welfare?]

If you have any other questions about our products, services or partnership opportunities, please contact Jessica Freeman at or Lauren Sammel at

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Porcine Research Applications

Porcine materials can be seen in a wide range of medical and research applications

Materials derived from pigs provide many industries with materials that have a wide range of uses that benefit the common good. Many porcine materials are used to create everyday products, but a growing use of pig co-products comes from medical devices and biomedical research. For medical research purposes, pigs play an extremely important role since their physiology is very similar to humans. Because of the similarities in skin, muscles, organs and other internal systems, research models derived from porcine materials are superior to other models since the likelihood of similar effects/results in humans are high. The applications of porcine materials can be seen in a wide range of medical and research applications.


Translational Research

Translational medicine (AKA translational research) uses the knowledge gained from scientific research and data to develop new medicines and procedures that improve health and wellness. One aspect of translational research is the study of cell cultures or animal models in order to treat disease. Porcine materials play an important role in the study of various biological systems and organs:

Cardiovascular system

Reproductive system

Digestive system

Muscles, bones and joints




Organ Transplants

The common traits of pig and human organs make the use of porcine materials crucial to solving the problem of organ donor availability. While some researchers are looking at the prospects of xenotransplantation and genetic modification in pigs to fill the donor gap, pig co-products also play a role in developing medicines to help donor recipients improve their chances of transplant success.


Regenerative Medicine

In treating wounds and trauma, porcine materials are integral in helping patients heal and potentially regrow portions of their bodies. When it comes to treating injuries, doctors and researchers use an extracellular matrix (ECM) to promote the body’s natural regenerative and restorative processes. ECMs are a collection of biological material that help structure cells into new tissues. With ECMs, a wide variety of tissue types can be created/restored. Medical ECMs are primarily made from pig products.


Porcine tissues and other pig co-products provide a strong support structure to the creation of many products and the development of new innovations. While most people only know the use of pigs as a food source, the secondary harvest of pigs helps to eliminate waste while benefitting a wide range of industries. The harvesting of pig co-products helps maintain a responsible and sustainable method of animal stewardship.


If you have any other questions about our products, research or partnership opportunities, please contact Jessica Freeman at or Lauren Sammel at

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Sows vs. Market Pigs

Pigs such as sows and boars are essential for a sustainable harvest cycle

Maximizing efficiency and reducing waste is a concern for every industry. Pigs grow and mature at a quick rate, and many farmers consider a pig ready for harvest when they reach a weight of around 250-270 lbs. Pigs at this weight are considered market pigs or butcher pigs. Pigs can easily grow larger than market weight, but raising market pigs gives industrial farmers the best return on the resources used to feed and maintain their herd.

While market pigs play an important part in providing a food source, pigs such as sows and boars are essential for a sustainable harvest cycle. Boars are male pigs that are used for breeding and sows are female pigs that have given birth to a litter of piglets. Sows and boars can reach sizes much larger than market pigs and are more physically mature than market pigs.

Harvesting pigs for biological materials in addition to a food source helps create a sustainable supply chain. After pigs are processed for food, porcine materials and tissues are harvested to a wide range of industries, including research labs and medical facilities. Porcine materials play a pivotal role in the research and creation of medical and biological innovations that improve the lives of humans and animals alike.

At SSR, we primarily harvest porcine materials from sows, which can give additional benefits to the co-products produced. Sows are stronger, bigger and more mature than market pigs, potentially giving their tissues advantages over younger specimens. Also, since sows are bigger than market pigs, the yields produced can be much larger, giving bigger harvests from fewer animals.

The creation of pig co-products and the harvesting of porcine materials provide an effective partnership between agricultural and scientific industries to promote the reduction of waste products while aiding in the creation of new research and medical materials. The successful collaborations in pig harvesting show that sustainability isn’t a far off dream, but an achievable goal.


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How Porcine Tissues Are Being Used for Organ Generation

How Porcine Tissues Are Being Used for Organ Generation

Organ donations and transplants can benefit many lives, but the process has many challenges. While the number of people needing donations outweighs the supply of human organs available, transplant patients also deal with the possibility of their bodies rejecting the organ. Because of these issues, many scientists are working towards new innovations to address the supply of viable organs and the need to decrease the potential for rejection.


Through the advancements in biomedical science, regenerative medicine and stem cell research, scientists are coming up with new techniques and procedures to grow cells, tissues and eventually organs from a growing range of biological materials. The height of this technology results in the creation of organoids and even 3D bioprinting. Each of these techniques moves scientists closer and closer to the prospect of viable organs for transplant, but more research is needed to make that goal a reality.


Porcine materials are a great aid in the efforts of organ generation. Materials harvested from pigs are have many benefits from other sources because of the similarities between pig and human biology. Pig organs are very similar to our own, and their internal systems are alike as well. Pig organs also function in similar manner as human organs, and pigs can also experience some of the same medical issues we do. Even now, porcine materials are often used in medical devices to treat various injuries or conditions in human beings.


In the generation of cells and tissues that pave the way for the generation of transplantable organs, scientists use building blocks known as ECM scaffolds to bioengineer structures that can be used in tissue grafting and other regenerative therapies. Porcine materials are an obvious choice for creating ECM scaffolds for immediate availability and relation to human biology.


As the technology for organ generation becomes viable for widespread use, its use in regenerative medicine, transplants and other life saving techniques has many applications. The biggest benefit seen by experts is the creation of organs that are perfect matches for their recipients. Degenerative diseases can be better treated, and the shortage of viable organs will decrease.


SSR Lifesciences creates many high-quality medical products derived from excellent porcine materials. We can source, prepare and deliver customized items in large volumes according to client specifications. From medical training, R&D, pharmaceuticals and medical device development, SSR Lifesciences can partner with you for your research or commercial needs. Please contact us to set up an introductory meeting.

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ARMI Membership

SSR is proud to announce it is now a member of the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI). ARMI is a non-profit organization with a mission to “make practical the large-scale manufacturing of engineered tissues and tissue-related technologies, to benefit existing industries and grow new ones.”


With this membership, SSR and other leaders are helping to lay the framework for a more unified community in the field of tissue engineering. This framework will help enrich innovation and help streamline those innovations into manufactured products. 


Check out this feature on SSR on the ARMI blog here. Read about the importance of porcine tissues in the medical device field and the importance of collaborating with strong partners in improving, prolonging and saving lives. 

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Porcine Materials Play an Important Role in Medical Care and Innovation


Pigs play an important role in the overall health and wellness of millions of people around the world. While harvesting pigs for food is a commonly known practice, what the general population might not see is the benefit of processing pigs after they have been harvested for food. Porcine materials and other pig co-products are used in a wide variety of industries that positively affect humans and other animals. One of the biggest ways pigs play an important role in our lives is through their use in biomedical research. Porcine materials are used to make advances in medical sciences and patient care.


Pigs have had a wide use in the medical field due to their similarities with humans. Pig organs are very similar to our own, and their internal systems are alike as well. Since they are omnivores like us, pig organs function in a comparable manner to human organs, and pigs can also experience some of the same medical issues we do. Because of these striking similarities, porcine materials are often used in medical devices to treat various injuries or conditions   in  human beings.


In the field of transplant surgery, where rejection is always a potential issue, porcine materials are being used to help minimize rejection issues with patients using decellularized tissues and ECM (extracellular matrix) scaffolds. These items give doctors the basic tools and structures to minimize transplant rejection. Decellularized tissues and ECM scaffolds are essentially building blocks that doctors can use to bioengineer other tissues and internal structures that can be used in tissue grafting and other regenerative therapies. Medical devices and therapies using porcine materials have an increased rate of success due to the compatibility of pig co-products. With further research and innovation with porcine materials, restorative therapies and transplant methodologies will make the healing  process for many patients even easier.


SSR Lifesciences derives excellent porcine materials for development of  many high-quality medical products. We can source, prepare and deliver customized items in large volumes according to client specifications. From medical training, R&D, pharmaceuticals and medical device development, SSR Lifesciences can partner with you for your research or commercial needs. Please contact Jessica Freeman at or Lauren Sammel at to set up an introductory meeting.

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Benefits of Porcine Co-products


Pork is an important source of food and nutrition worldwide, but many people don’t realize just how far pork materials can benefit their daily lives other than a delicious meal. The porcine materials harvested and created in the making of meat products highly impact the health and wellness of humans and other animals.


Sustainability is a key issue. If pigs were only harvested for the products you see at the grocery store, there would be about 40 % wasted materials. However, sustainable harvesting practices make use of the entire animal, and the uses of porcine co-products are astounding. With responsible farming practices, all parts of an animal have a use and value.


The uses of porcine co-products benefit many fields and industries:

Biomedical research


Animal feed science and technology

Life sciences

Consumer goods


A wide variety of industries utilize and benefit from porcine co-products.  A single pig can be used to make over 150 different products that increase the quality of life for millions of people and animals around the world.


SSR is a sustainable supplier of sow materials and co-products. We can source, prepare and deliver customized items in large volumes according to client specifications. We promote the responsible use of porcine materials to advance academic research and medical training. We can partner with you as a supplier, industry partner or joint venture partner for your research or commercial needs. Please contact Jessica Freeman at or Lauren Sammel at to setup an introductory meeting.

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Pigs and the Prospects of Xenotransplantation

When it comes to saving lives through organ donation, America is in a crisis. According to the American Transplant Foundation, more than 114,000 people are on a waiting list for a vital organ transplant. The need is so great that another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. With the huge shortage of available organs, 20 people die each day waiting for an organ.


However, with the technological innovations happening in biomedicine, we are getting closer to finding a solution to the organ shortage. Xenotransplantation is the transfer of nonhuman cells, tissues or organs into a human recipient. Xenotransplantation has been around since the 1950s and has been providing many different life-saving therapies around the world.


Of all the viable sources for nonhuman biological material, pigs are the best choice for many reasons. Pig organs are similar in size, shape and function when compared to humans. Pigs also grow and mature at a fast rate, avoiding the problems of the donor shortage. Also, with current advancements in gene editing and genetic engineering, medical materials derived from pigs have an increased chance at being accepted in the human body.


While the discussion and study of pig xenotransplantation is still ongoing, it is important to note that many porcine co-products are widely used throughout the world. From life-saving transplants, nutraceuticals and academic research, porcine materials play an important part in fighting diseases and restoring lives.


SSR Lifesciences supplies excellent porcine materials for development of many high-quality medical products. We can source, prepare and deliver customized items in large or small volumes according to client specifications. From medical training, R&D, pharmaceuticals and medical device development, SSR Lifesciences can partner with you for your research or commercial needs. Please contact Jessica Freeman at or Lauren Sammel at to set up an introductory meeting.

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Member Spotlight: Alisa Satian, Team Lead

SSR is the premier supplier of porcine materials for a variety of industries, ranging from medical and pharmaceutical to pet food. We specialize in supplying customized tissue to meet our customer’s specifications.


At SSR, we pride ourselves in the superior quality of our products and the amount of care we give our customers. Our success comes from our team members, who continually strive to do the best work possible. We’re excited to put a spotlight on Alisa Satian.


Climbing to the Top

Alisa is a great example of a member who goes above and beyond to deliver customer satisfaction every time. A Watertown, WI native, Alisa has worked at our Watertown facility since July 2016, and has worked her way up to a Team Lead position. She now coaches a team of 16 who work together to harvest a variety of specialized porcine tissues and organs for various industries.


Helping Others Be Their Best

Alisa ensures that only the highest quality materials are harvested. She prides herself on excellent record keeping, strong training programs, and making sure her team is engaged. She keeps her team and herself engaged by making sure her team understands the impact that their work has. “It’s a rush to know that the material that you are collecting could ultimately save someone’s life.”


More Than Just Service

Alisa also puts a lot of emphasis on customer satisfaction. Due to the very customized nature of some of the tissue her team harvests, they depend on feedback to make sure they are meeting customer requirements. “Customer feedback is extremely important so that we can make adjustments if necessary. We have to please our customers first and foremost.”


A Perfectly Run Team

When asked what she would like people to know about what she and her team does, she said “We take a lot of pride in what we do. We offer the highest quality products to customers, with orders completed on time. Once we get an order, we work to fulfill it right away.”


Thanks for all you do, Alisa!

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