Recently, a new study was conducted to encourage a lift on the pigswill ban put in place by the European Union after the foot-and-mouth disease in 2001. It is believed that by incorporating harnessed technology developed by East Asian countries we could turn wasted human food into safe pig consumption through “heat-treating”. This suggests a 50% cut on animal feed for farmers and potentially saving around 1.8 million hectares of land and over a quarter hectares of Brazilian forest and savannah from pig feed production and grain.
A UK farmer was thought to have caused the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease; after feeding uncooked food waste to pigs, illegally. In 2002 the EU officially declared all pigswill as illegal. However, the UK has built a high-profile campaign against this, The Pig Idea, with the help of celebrity chefs such as Ben Fogle, Janet Street-Porter and Giorgio Locatelli.
According to research conducted from the University of Cambridge, it not longer makes sense why the EU are reluctant to revert the ban when there is demonstrable proof that East Asian countries have developed technology that recycles food waste into safe food consumption for pigs. Not only that, figures show that the EU can cut the increasing feed costs for pig farmers and save 21.5% of land required for pork industry’s.
A statement was published in the Journal Food Policy from the leader of the study in University of Cambridge Zoology department, Erasmus zu Ermgassen:
“Following the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, different countries looked at the same situation, the same evidence, and came to opposite conclusions for policy,”
“In many countries in East Asia we have a working model for the safe use of food waste as pig feed. It is a highly regulated and closely monitored system that recycles food waste and produces low-cost pig feed with a low environmental impact.”
Swill is used all over different parts of the world – Reintroducing swill has been described as a possible saviour in global resources and provide an environmentally friendly recycling solution which could save an estimated 102.5 million tonne of food waste in the EU each year! In Japan over 35% of food waste is now recycled into animal feed.
In regards of the EU, researchers must examine further data and produce real models on how much land and money can be saved on reintroducing swill before consideration. Swill is a cheaper solution to grain and soybean-based meals. According to researchers the costs for farmers on animal feed could be reduced dramatically by 50%. The soybean meal alone takes up around 1.2 million hectares across South America and an estimate 75% of agricultural land, worldwide, accounts for livestock and this is primarily produce for animals.
Understandably, the EU’s concerns are about safety and the concept of feeding human food to animals as “unhealthy” however Erasmus zu Ermgassen expresses why these concerns are incorrect and purely based on assumptions:
“Pigs are omnivorous animals; in the wild they would eat anything they could forage for, from vegetable matter to other animal carcasses, and they have been fed food waste since they were domesticated by humans 10,000 years ago. Swill actually provides a more traditional diet for pigs than the grain-based feed currently used in modern EU systems,”
“A recent survey found that 25% of smallholder farmers in the UK admit to illegally feeding uncooked food waste to their pigs, so the fact is that the current ban is not particularly safe from a disease-outbreak perspective. Feeding uncooked food waste is dangerous because pigs can catch diseases from raw meat, but a system supporting the regulated use of heat-treated swill does not have the same risks,”
By 2050, the demand on meat and dairy products is forecasted to increase by 60% – The EU are already looking into proposals of reverting the food waste laws and dramatically reducing the ecological footprint by using Processed Animal Protein (PAP). This would mean bringing back insects as poultry and pig food and poultry products would be used for fish food.
Erasmus zu Ermgassen says how the environmental and economical concern has driven the re-assessment of the animal feed ban;
“The reintroduction of swill feeding in the EU would require backing from pig producers, the public, and policy makers, but it has substantial potential to improve the environmental and economic sustainability of EU pork production. It is time to reassess whether the EU’s blanket ban on the use of food waste as feed is the right thing for the pig industry,”