Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stamping Out Swill-Feeding of Pigs

Many local authorities in China are trying to stamp out the practice of feeding restaurant waste to pigs. The practice illustrates the tension between biosecurity and utilization of food waste while the campaign against it illustrates the vagueness and arbitrary nature of law enforcement in China.

This week, an article on a reporter's discovery of swill-fed pigs on the outskirts of a city in Shandong Province was widely posted on Chinese news sites. The reporter found a villager on the outskirts of Zibo City who raises about 100 pigs on garbage from restaurants. The reporter said he was kicked out of the farmer's home but he found another villager nearby also swill-feeding pigs.

The farmer visits a restaurant daily to pick up waste on his 3-wheeled motorbike. He pays a varying price depending on the quality of the slop, but it can amount to thousands of yuan paid to the restaurant annually. He generally buys a piglet for 700 yuan and spends 900 yuan on slop to raise it to market weight. The price for pigs is about the same as that for other pigs. His net earnings are about 300-400 yuan per head higher than using conventional feed.

Restaurant waste tends to produce fatty pigs, and the reporter learned that the swill-fed pigs are actually valued by people in "the south" who don't like pigs raised on grain because they have little taste and are too small. Some of the swill pigs are sold in the local Zibo market too.

The disadvantage to swill-feeding, said the farmer, is that they are more prone to disease. The reporter said the farmer had recently lost about 30 pigs to foot and mouth disease. The farmer said he sells diseased carcasses for varying prices--some for 100 yuan, some for 80, and some couldn't be sold at all.
Mr. Zhang is stopped in Qingdao carrying barrels of restaurant waste and tofu dregs. 
A reporter just happened to be there.  Source: Kaixian TV

A TV report in Qingdao showed police stopping a man named Zhang who was collecting restaurant waste to feed to pigs. Mr. Zhang came to Qingdao from Rizhao, a city about 50 miles south, to do construction work. Earlier this year he rented some land outside the city to raise chickens. However, feed was too expensive so he started collecting restaurant waste to feed pigs. He claims he didn't know this is illegal.

These articles appear to be a propaganda campaign against swill-feeding. The articles make the practice sound disgusting but they don't establish that it is illegal. According to a footnote accompanying the Zibo article, feeding swill to animals is not entirely illegal. China's 2006 livestock law says it is illegal if the swill is not treated at high temperature. Swill-feeding was common in the United States until the 20th century when everyone knew the term "slopping the hogs." It was only banned recently in England and Australia because the practice was linked to outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. The ban is vigorously debated there with environmentalists supporting the practice for utilizing waste.

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