The Pig Idea

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Research

FEEDING SURPLUS FOOD TO PIGS SAFELY

Our new report reveals that a change of law could liberate up to 2.5 million tonnes of currently wasted food from the UK’s manufacturing, retail and catering sectors to be fed to pigs – 20% of the UK’s estimated food waste.

Download the full report.

Chefs including Thomasina Miers and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have joined us to call for a ban on feeding food waste to pigs to be lifted, and replaced with a new safe, well-regulated system of processing food surplus into pig feed. Feeding food waste to pigs could help the UK meet its emission reduction and food waste reduction targets.

Feeding pigs on food leftovers is an age-old practice, but in 2001 it was made illegal to feed most types of food waste to pigs, when the Foot and Mouth outbreak was traced back to a farmer feeding his pigs with improperly treated food waste. This was enshrined in EU law in 2002, but the UK’s exit from the EU now means the UK has the opportunity to reform this law.

The United Nations estimates that if farmers all around the world fed their livestock on the food we currently waste and on agricultural by-products, enough grain would be liberated to feed an extra three billion people, more than the additional number expected to be sharing our planet by 2050. Pig feed in the UK is currently a mix of products like soy, often grown in deforested land in South America, and cereal products which use up valuable land and resources which could be used to feed people. Alongside this, an estimated 12.7 million tonnes of food is wasted annually in the UK.

A recent survey of pig industry trade fair attendees found that 75% of those surveyed, including pig farmers from across the industry, agreed that the ban on feeding food surplus to pigs should be lifted, provided safety concerns are addressed. UK pig farmers currently see up to 62% of their production costs go on feed. In Japan, where safely processing food surplus to feed pigs is a thriving industry, feed made from surplus food costs around half of the cost of conventional feed.

The report cites a group of experts in animal health, diets and diseases from the UK and Europe who this year concluded that it was possible to produce safe feed from surplus food through heat treatment, potentially complemented with acidification. The experts highlighted that in Europe this would need to be treated in a limited number of licensed, off-farm processing facilities, using safety processes similar to the rendering and pet food industries, and regularly inspected, a proposal that would remedy the weaknesses of the pre-2001 system.

FACTS AND FIGURES

IS THERE A RISK POSED BY FEEDING FOOD WASTE TO PIGS?

Pigs are omnivorous animals, evolved to eat all the kinds of food that humans eat, and there is no evidence that feeding them properly treated food waste is unhealthy either to the animals, or to humans. That’s why countries like Japan and South Korea encourage this practice instead of banning it. An expert seminar examined the viability of feeding treated surplus food to pigs and chickens. It examined the hazards and risk factors, and the environmental benefits. The panel concluded the practice is viable provided certain safety measures are enforced involving a combination of heat treatment and acidification and a system to prevent cross-contamination. Moreover, in the context of the REFRESH partnership, Feedback is working with top microbiologists to ensure the risks are fully managed when we develop a system in the UK and Europe.

We’re proposing a new system where food waste is converted to livestock feed in centralised processing facilities which are carefully managed and easier to regulate. This system is successfully used in Japan and South Korea. With the correct biosecurity measures in place, it is perfectly safe to eat waste-fed pork. Cooking leftover food renders it safe for pig. Pathogens such as Foot and Mouth Disease and Classical Swine Fever are effectively eliminated by heat treatment.

Watch – food waste being processed in South Korea

In the United States heat-treated meat-containing surplus food is fed to pigs, and the US has been Foot and Mouth free since 1929.  The practice is common for example in Las Vegas where large buffet-style restaurants and pig farms incorporate leftovers in their business model.

RE-FRAMING THE CONCEPT OF RISK

The Food Climate Research Network’s report gives a damning portrayal of current livestock production; ‘To raise the animals we eat and use, we have cleared forests, driven species to extinction, polluted air and waterways, and released vast quantities of GHG emissions into the atmosphere. The rearing of animals has literally transformed the face of this earth.’ If global demand for meat grows as expected, we would need to increase feed production by 80%; if we really want to build a sustainable future we cannot keep feeding livestock this way. Instead of just focusing on the risk of feeding food waste to pigs – which extensive scientific research has shown is minimal. We need to look at the risk of not doing this – the risk of destroying the Amazon, of bringing many animals to the brink of extinction and of continuing to feed livestock with grain that could feed people.

ESSENTIAL READING

Feeding Surplus Food to Pigs Safely: a win-win for farmers and the environment

Research summary – examining the environmental, economic and safety case for overturning the ban on feeding food waste to pigs

Expert panel on the risk management of using treated surplus food in pig feed

FURTHER READING

Reducing the land use of EU pork production: where there’s swill, there’s a way

Environmental and health impacts of using food waste as animal feed: a comparative analysis of food waste management options

Support amongst UK pig farmers and agricultural stakeholders for the use of food losses in animal feed

Summary Japanese legislation TSE & food waste in animal feed

Leftovers for Livestock: A Legal Guide for Using Food Scraps as Animal Feed

The Pig Swill Ban – A Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut?

PAPERS ON LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION

Grazed and confused – FCRN

Appetite for destruction – WWF

Gut feelings and possible tomorrows: (where) does animal farming fit?- FCRN

Latest updates in this campaign

UK pig farmers support lifting the ban on feeding pigs with leftovers, while experts say safety concerns can be overcome
UK pig farmers support lifting the ban on feeding pigs with leftovers, while experts say safety concerns can be overcome 25th Apr 18

New research has shown that over 75% of pig farmers and agricultural…

Expert panel concludes that feeding leftovers to pigs is safe
Expert panel concludes that feeding leftovers to pigs is safe 20th Apr 18

The current method of livestock production is inherently wasteful. 36% of world…

Wondering what you can feed your pigs? There’s now an app for that!
Wondering what you can feed your pigs? There’s now an app for that! 18th Oct 17

Our campaign, The Pig Idea, encourages the feeding of surplus food that…

View more updates

What can you do to make a difference?

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Ask Michael Gove to consider the case for lifting the ban on feeding food waste to pigs.

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Are you a food business?

We have developed a prototype web app to help food businesses determine whether their surplus food is suitable for animal feed and navigate the relevant legislation.

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