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.
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.