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Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Pig Idea Feast

Walking through Trafalgar Square today didn't seem the same without a friendly piglet to accompany me.  Last week I lent a hand at The Pig Idea Feast in Trafalgar Square, where I was tasked with enticing the public to join in the festivities with the help of Norris, one of the piglets pictured below.
Photo credit:Diana Jarvis & Karolina Webb
The Pig Idea team gave away over 5000 portions of porky delights at their feast on 21st November. All the pork served, from nose to tail, had been reared by the team at Stepney City Farm on a healthy diet of spent brewer's grains, whey, unsold fruit and veg and okara (a tofu byproduct), all collected locally - food that would have otherwise been wasted.

I'm sure all the food was delicious, but speaking from first hand experience, I can certainly testify to the deliciousness of the spicy pork tacos served by the Wahaca team.

After my leafleting trip round the local area with Norris the piglet I was tasked with gathering pledges in support of the Pig Idea.

As I chatted to people while they ate their lunch, enjoying the glorious winter sunshine, I was surprised how many people hadn't realised (or maybe hadn't remembered) that there has been a ban, for the last ten years, on feeding food waste to pigs.  Most people seemed appalled at the idea that pigs were often being fed on soya that had been grown half way round the world when there was so much they could have been fed on that was just going to waste.

Many times I was asked why, when we've been feeding our food waste to pigs for centuries, did we have to stop.

The ban was a response to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001.  As I understand it, all food whoever you are feeding it to, whether that's people or pigs, has to be treated in the correct way.  If we are cooking the food, we have to cook it properly, ensuring that it is cooked to the correct temperatures and for long enough.  We have to be careful when we reheat foods and we have to store them properly.

Here's some information from The Pig Idea that explains more.

'It was tentatively concluded that the FMD outbreak originated on a farm that was illegally feeding its pigs unprocessed restaurant waste. It was originally intended to be a temporary measure, but has remained in place ever since.

As a result of the ban, farmers have had to find alternative sources of pig feed, mostly from ‘virgin’ materials - crops like soya, maize and wheat.

A return to the practice of feeding waste food to pigs would have a number of major social, environmental and economic benefits:

*      Liberate food supplies, particularly cereal crops, so that these can be eaten by people instead of being fed to pigs;

*      Lower feed costs for pig farmers, and so help to protect the beleaguered British pig industry;

*      Avoid the economic and environmental costs of disposing of food waste, including dumping food waste in landfill sites and leaving it to rot which produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas;

*      Protect landscapes rich in biodiversity, such as the precious Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado grassland, that are under pressure to grow crops to feed pigs;

*      Create jobs and revenue in the new eco-feed industry that will be needed to collect, treat and distribute surplus food so that it can be fed to pigs.

Is it safe?

Cooking leftover food renders it safe for pigs, and also for chickens, killing pathogens such as Foot and Mouth Disease and Classical Swine Fever. 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 the humans that eat their meat.' 

You can still pledge your support on the Pig Idea Website:

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