Hogs in Britain (Part Two): Recycled Pig Feed

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    In my previous article about hogs in Britain, I ended with a bit about overconsumption in Britain, and how instrumental hogs could be in reducing waste. It sounds like a good idea on the surface, but there are some obstacles and ethical questions.

    The pig is finding itself in a more prominent role in cash-strapped Britain, where many are looking to cut costs and make money. And various groups have a different roles for pigs in British society.

    One of them is to use food from retail and other locations that would otherwise go to the dump for pig feed. It is a somewhat similar idea to Egypt's use of pigs as garbage eaters to break down organic matter.

    The campaign is called the Pig Idea, a campaign created by Chef Thomasina Miers and food expert Tristuam Stuart to deal with Britain's massive food waste problem, and to cut down on the chopping down of rain forests to sustain commercial farming.

    According to studies, half of all wasted food originates from the home. Britain wastes 15 million tonnes of food and drink annually, three million tonnes of which can be used for commercial pig feed. Britain is looking at hospitals, prisons, homes and businesses as major sources of food waste. In my previous articles about pigs in Egypt, I highlighted their role in Egyptian society as garbage eaters, and pigs have taken on this role for thousands of years in human civilization, which is why they've garnered such dirty reputation.

    However, various laws stipulate that Britain is forbidden from feeding food garbage due to concerns over pig health and the spreading of disease. This law was implemented in the U.K. in reaction to the foot-and-mouth disease that plagued Britain in 2001, before the European Union adopted the law in 2003. Under the new law, farmers are forced to use soya, which is normally imported from South America, and other fruits and vegetables that could otherwise be consumed by humans. A primary contention that critics have with this system is the mass importation of soya and the cutting down of rain forest to feed demand.

    But the National Pig Association and farmers support a balanced approach, especially farmers. In their view, wasted food is termed co-product, since no food is waste when it comes to feeding a hog. Britain already uses 1.23 million tonnes of food waste, including rapeseed meal, starch, breads, wheat and other products, and all of these foods comprise 43.9 percent of total pig feed.

    Is it healthy to the pig?

    There is some legitimacy in the law, since feeding pigs any form of garbage can increase chances of disease. Like any other animal, pigs need a balanced diet of carbs, protein and vitamins to be healthy. When you're feeding a leftover food ready for the dump, there is a higher likelihood of festering bacteria and viruses getting into the pig's stomach, and this is how disease can spread among herds. And it can be especially problematic for those who have pet pigs.

    There is an obvious problem in feeding pigs any form of food garbage, but this is not what the Pig Idea campaign had in mind, instead they want to take dairy and vegetable products that would normally go to the waste dump and would divert towards pig farms, saving farmers millions of dollars on feed and cutting down the use of garbage dumps. However, even dairy and vegetable waste is not fresh and may contain harmful microbes for the pig, but a remedy is for recycled food to go through Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), and this would mainly target meats of any kind.

    And the issue of feeding unprocessed food to pigs is a touchy subject in Britain, considering the outbreak of 2001. African swine fever continues to be a problem in Russia, stemming feeding tainted food waste to hogs.

    There is concern that a loosening of these laws would allow people to think they could feed any form of table scrap to pigs, which could render them very sick. However, the EU does not seem to be budging when it comes to changing the law, and feeding pigs recycled food is something best left to the discretion of individual pig owners.

    Is feeding pigs recycled food safe?

    From a commercial perspective, it is an acceptable solution, but one must be very careful when feeding to pet pigs. Hogs do not have cast-iron stomachs as many were led to believe. Like dogs, goats and chickens, there are limits to what they can eat. There are pet owners who make their own feed, and this works fine as well. However, use caution when judging if the food is old or tainted.

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