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Starving pigs and bankrupt farmers: how food waste can help

Save Kitchen Waste to Feed the pigsLast week 400 pigs were found starved to death in the Netherlands as it appears their bankrupt farmer had given up on them. This is just one example of many, alarming animal welfare and farmer organisations alike.

In the first three months of 2016 alone, five Dutch pig farmers went bankrupt, almost as much as the total figure for 2015. Earlier this year, agriculture experts warned that Britain’s pig farmers are also braced for a horrendous year, as a glut of pork on the global markets sends prices plunging.

In addition to the impact on farmers themselves, animal welfare suffers too. The need to keep costs down results in terribly overcrowded and stressful conditions which in turn lead to antibiotics overuse.

The cost of feed is a major issue. In 2015, feed made up 56% of total expense for pig farmers in the UK (and as much as 65% in Ireland). At the same time, our friends at the Japan Food Ecology Centre produce nutritious and safe pig feed from food waste at half the cost of conventional feed.

What more incentive do we need to urgently create centralised industrial treatment systems to safely convert kitchen left-overs to pig feed? These systems need to be underpinned by sound legislation guaranteeing the microbiological safety of the resulting feed, and incentives to ensure the enormous environmental benefits are realised too.

At Feedback, together with our research partners of the REFRESH programme we are working hard to clarify existing guidance, so that more currently permissible surplus food and by-products replace expensive virgin feed crops like soya.

We are also furthering collaborations with scientists to confirm the exact treatment specifications to guarantee the safety of feed made from catering waste. We hope that the plight of farmers and pigs alike will encourage governments and the industry to urgently prioritise this work themselves. We’d be all too happy to join forces.