EU considers swill feeding for pigs to curb food waste

In a University of Cambridge report, scientists argue that swill feeding pigs could be a strategy to meet the demand for livestock products over the next half century.

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In the report scientists explained that low impact/low cost diets such as feeding food waste can be a safe and nutritious form of animal feed.

According to the study, published in the January 2016 edition of Food Policy, this strategy would reduce the land area needed for pork production in the EU by one-fifth. This is a potential saving of 1,8 million hectares of agricultural land.

Swill feeding can increase profits of individual farmers, but the report warned it could also raise concerns about food safety and disease control.

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“The overall cost to the industry of such an outbreak could outweigh the financial gain. This concern is understandable given the £8 billion (R190 billion) cost of the UK’s 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak,” said the report.

Dr Peter Evans, health liaison officer for the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation, said it’s illegal to feed swill in SA, unless it’s boiled for an hour or sterilised.

SA imports pork from EU countries, but the product has to be certified as ‘safe’ by veterinary services in exporting countries. “We trust that should they use kitchen waste, it would be sterilised before being fed to pigs,” said Evans.

He explained that kitchen waste may be contaminated, and zoonotic diseases such as tuberculosis or influenza could be transmitted from humans to pigs in this way.

“Given high feed prices, a company or person who makes a business out of collecting kitchen waste and sterilising it would be acceptable,” he said.

The report said that there has been no disease outbreaks linked to the use of swill as animal feed in Japan and South Korea, according to 2012 and 2013 statistics. These countries already have centralised food waste recycling systems. The use of swill in Japan has grown by 125% from 2003 to 2013, and by 35% in South Korea between 2001 and 2006.