The pig sector is actively debating the question of whether we could begin feeding heat treated food waste to pigs again, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies.
The NPA is not completely against the idea but various questions would need to be answered first, particularly given the threat to the pig industry from diseases like African swine fever, which is currently circulating in Europe and can be spread via infected meat.
The association was responding to calls on Saturday from environmental charity Feedback for a change of law it said could liberate up to 2.5 million tonnes of currently wasted food from the UK’s manufacturing, retail and catering sectors to be fed to pigs. That would be 20% of the UK’s estimated food waste.
In a report it cites a group of experts in animal health, diets and diseases, convened by the European food waste project REFRESH, who this year concluded that it was possible to produce safe feed from surplus food through heat treatment, potentially complemented with acidification. The experts highlighted that in Europe this would need to be treated in a limited number of licensed, off-farm processing facilities, using safety processes similar to the rendering and pet food industries, and regularly inspected. It said this proposal would remedy the weaknesses of the pre-2001 system, tightened up after swill feeding was blamed for starting the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.
The charity pointed out that 62% of UK pig production costs go on feed. In Japan, where safely processing food surplus to feed pigs is a thriving industry, feed made from surplus food costs around half of the cost of conventional feed.
Chefs including Thomasina Miers and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have joined Feedback’s call for the current ban on feeding food waste to pigs to be lifted, and replaced with a new safe, well-regulated system of processing food surplus into pig feed.
You can see more about the campaign here
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “The pig sector is actively debating whether feeding heat treated food waste would be a sensible option or not.
“Whilst many are still acutely aware of the devastating impact that getting it wrong can have (by causing Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 and watching African Swine Fever rampage across the EU often spread by feeding swill) and the fact that our export ability will be increasingly vulnerable post Brexit, the pressure to find more sustainable protein sources, reduce reliance on soya and to reduce food waste is intensifying.
“The pig industry already uses over a million tonnes of permissible food waste a year, primarily by-products of food production such as wheatfeed and biscuit meal.
“The NPA would not be completely opposed to centrally managed and tightly controlled food waste treatment plants, but would question who would pay for them, how the quality of the product as a nutritional supplement would be assured and whether the consumer would be content to buy pork from pigs fed on such a product.
“An independent risk assessment would need to be undertaken to assess the viability of this feed source. We would not however support the feeding of pork products to pigs.”