The Pig Idea

The Pig Idea


By Abby Allen
20, August 2018

For thousands of years pigs have been man’s perfect partner in consuming the waste that humans produce and converting it straight into calories. Today supermarkets talk about composting food waste or turning it into electricity but by far the most efficient thing to do with food waste is to feed it directly to pigs.

"Pigs can be a highly effective recycling system, with the potential to turn a massive problem of food waste into a delicious solution. It's mad not to." Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. 

Instead we have a crazy system where pigs are being fed food that humans could otherwise eat, and much of this feed is soy, grown on the Amazonian basin where rainforest is being cut down at an alarming rate. 97 percent of global soy production is used for animal feed and Europe now imports 40 million tonnes of soymeal a year. The amount of land needed to produce soy for the European market since the ban on meat and bone meal is roughly equal to the area of deforestation in the Brazilian rainforest since that date.

The Problem

In the UK, thousands of British pig farmers have gone out of business because of increases in the price of wheat, maize and soy – the principal ingredients of pig and chicken food – on the global marketplace where the farmers are competing with people who wish to buy these grains for their own consumption. Returning to the practice of recycling food waste for livestock feed would be a way of increasing Europe’s food security for the future.

Food waste is a global crisis. A third of all food globally is wasted. All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US and Europe. The United Nations estimates that feeding food waste instead of commercial grains to livestock could liberate enough food to feed three billion people.

We contribute to this crisis with current legislation regarding the feeding of food waste to pigs. Around 20 times more carbon dioxide emissions can be saved by feeding food waste to pigs rather than sending it for anaerobic digestion (the next best recycling option). Under current European laws, feeding most food waste (such as catering waste) to pigs is banned.

Instead of consuming our waste food, most European pigs are currently fed cereal crops and soy from South America. This process contributes to deforestation, land hunger and pollution. The irrigation water used globally to grow food that is wasted would be enough for the domestic needs (at 200 litres per person per day) of 9 billion people - the number expected on the planet by 2050. If we planted trees on land currently used to grow unnecessary surplus and wasted food, this would offset a theoretical maximum of 100% of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

This practice not only contributes to global hunger and environmental disaster but affects economies locally UK pig farmers are being put out of business by expensive grain prices, when they have a ready-made food source for their livestock in the form of food waste.

"Humans have been recycling food waste by feeding it to pigs for thousands of years. Reviving this tradition will help to protect forests that are being chopped down to grow the millions of tonnes of soya we import from South America every year to feed our livestock." Tristram Stuart, Environmentalist.

The Pig Idea Manifesto

The pig ideaThe Pig Idea is a campaign by food waste expert Tristram Stuart. 

At the heart of The Pig Idea are three major objectives:

  • Restore public confidence in the safe, efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly practice of feeding surplus food to pigs.
  • Encourage more use of already legally permissible food waste as pig feed – for example, bread, dairy, fruit and vegetables that are unfit for human consumption – by raising awareness and understanding of this option amongst supermarkets, food businesses, Animal Health officials and pig farmers.
  • Change European law to allow food waste including catering waste to be diverted for use as pig and chicken feed; and to introduce a robust legal framework for its safe processing and use to prevent the outbreak of animal diseases.

What you can do

Sign your name to a growing list of supporters to help lift the ban of feeding food waste to pigs. Click here to support the campaign...

The pig idea - pledge

You can find out more about how we rear our Saddleback pigs and what we're doing to help this crisis... 

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