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Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Pig Idea

I came across "The Pig Idea" on Facebook today via Tristram Stuart and it really got me thinking and reflecting on all that's happened over the last few weeks while I've been running my pilot Dustbin Diet course.

Yesterday in my DustbinDiet workshop the students were talking about food waste, using up leftovers and also using leftovers to feed pets.  The world has gone a bit mad - thinking that any food that we feed animals has to be specifically engineered for them by humans, hasn't it? Why is it better to feed your cat the same boring diet of highly engineered food pellets, than to share the rest of your tin of tuna with it instead of leaving the tuna to languish in the fridge?  Haven't we all done that at least once - forgotten about the tin of tuna we started until we find it on the next clear out of the fridge?

My mother-in-law's dog eats what she eats, mostly - and no, I don't think they dine at table together when we're not looking, but  Cookie appreciates a bit of gravy and a few peas along with his dog biscuits. There are rules, of course, like no cooked bones, but there's plenty that can go to making up a nutritional meal for both parties.

Ben & Jerry's ice cream manufacturers give their food waste in the US and in Holland to nearby pig farms (apparently they don't like mint).  My Mum used to teach in a local school in the days when schools served proper home cooked meals.  We came home each day with a slop bucket, that would feed our geese.  In return we'd give the school cook goose eggs - because they made great cakes.

How did we get into such a ridiculous state where we can't feed our slops to our pigs?  I had a vague idea that it was something to do with the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease but couldn't remember exactly what happened and why the EU ban on feeding food waste to pigs came about.  So I checked out some of the research on The Pig Idea website and this is what they say:

"[In 2001] feeding catering waste to pigs was banned by the British government in response to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). It was tentatively concluded that the FMD outbreak originated on a farm that was illegally feeding its pigs unprocessed restaurant waste. The government justified the ban because it considered that there was a risk of infected meat entering the food chain. It was originally intended to be a temporary measure, but a government-sponsored enquiry into the government’s handling of the disease outbreak (the Anderson Enquiry) recommended that the ban be continued. In 2002 it was extended across the whole of the European Union."

That seems a bit like the "no cooked bones" rule being used as a reason never to feed any food waste to your dog.

They also say that:  "With the correct biosecurity measures in place, [feeding leftover food to pigs is safe]. Cooking leftover food renders it safe for pigs, and also for chickens. Pathogens such as Foot and Mouth Disease and Classical Swine Fever are effectively eliminated by heat treatment. Pigs and chickens are omnivorous animals, evolved to eat all the kinds of food that humans eat, and there is no evidence that feeding them properly treated food waste is unhealthy either to the animals, or to humans. That’s why countries like Japan and South Korea encourage this practice instead of banning it."

I think, given the huge problem we have with food waste and the problems we're causing ourselves and the planet allowing deforestation in order to grow feed for pigs it seems time to call for a change.

Check out  The Pig Idea website and sign the pledge.

Of course, we still need to think about the waste hierarchy.  The best way to deal with food waste is not to have any.  But the next best thing is to re-use it. Raising pigs on food waste is the perfect circular economy, is it not?

Image from my "Ice Green Energy" post a couple of years ago


K Meador said...

Very Interesting post. I am always careful what table scraps I feed my dogs.

Anna Pitt said...

Thanks for your feedback. I've just finished running two Dustbin Diet courses in schools, where the students create their own version of my book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free. Several of the students suggested feeding leftovers to dogs, but not being a dog owner I'm unsure of the specifics. A friend posted on Facebook about the 'BARF diet' which is mainly raw food. What do you allow your dog to have? And what's off limits?