Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Feeding pigs meat

Why can't I feed my pigs meat? 

I got this question from a discussion that I was a part of on the web,  and it's something that I think bears discussion. 

Pigs on pasture will regularly go and eat whatever they can catch.  This means things like earthworms, grubs, field mice or slow farmers (kidding.  sort of.  )   They have a spectacular sense of smell, and I've seen them find things that are buried many feet under the surface, apparently by smell. 

So if you let a pig do what pigs do, their diet is as varied as they can make it, and includes as much meat as they can find; they enjoy it and seek it out. 

The two basic concerns for me are learned behaviours -- if they figure out that chickens are tasty, pretty soon I won't have any chickens -- and legality. 

The Washington State Department of Agriculture regularly interviews places that are generating large amounts of food waste and tracks that material to see if it's being fed to animals.  They do this particularly for waste streams that contain meat.  The issue is a concern about disease -- specifically, foot and mouth disease (FMD). 

The last US outbreak of FMD was in 1929.  Here's the quote: 

"...The US saw its latest FMD outbreak in Montebello, California in 1929. This outbreak originated in hogs that had eaten infected meat scraps from a tourist steamship that had stocked meat in Argentina...."

There are both federal and state regulations that cover the feeding of meat to animals, and the basic thing that you are required to do is boil the material for 30 minutes at 212 degrees.  Heating hundreds or thousands of gallons of liquid is expensive.  I don't know of any hog farms in Washington State that are doing that, but RC farms in las vegas, does, and for this reason. 

There are lots of small farms that do feed meat to their animals, and the regulations come into play most if you're selling the pigs, but the public health issue is worth considering as well.

Pigs aren't the only animals industry feeds meat to.  Milk replacer, fed to baby animals (cows, sheep, pigs) typically comes in two varieties -- a dairy based mix, and a non-dairy mix.  the non-dairy mix is usually made with blood.

For an example of the harm that foot and mouth disease can cause, take a look at what South Korea has been going through in the last 12 months. 


Kathy said...


The FMD point is VERY important. (Not to mention there are other people diseases I would not want to come in contact with in feeding hogs waste people food.) This is why when you're re-entering this country and someone at customs asks if you've been on a farm or have any agricultural products, it is essential you tell the truth! An FMD outbreak in this country would be beyond catastrophic.

Eric Reuter said...


Could be worse. Here in Missouri, I've been informed by the Missouri Department of Agriculture that we can't even legally feed vegetables & whey, even generated on-farm, to pigs we intend to sell. It's a literal interpretation of the well-intentioned garbage laws. :

See here for more details

As for meat-feeding, the disease transmission issue is real. It would be nice if regulators were flexible enough to know the difference between cooked meat scraps generated on-farm, and raw scraps from the industrial food system, but I do have some sympathy for the outright ban given how hard that would be to handle and how problematic an outbreak would be.