September 2013 – The potentially devastating side-effects of Pig idea

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hounded by journalists looking for the NPA’s view on the ‘Pig Idea’ campaign and why the pig industry should think that feeding the food wasted from retail, restaurants and home kitchens to our pigs is the solution to all our problems.

The trouble is that, as with many things, it’s far more complicated than they are trying to make out; and not only that, we already utilise thousands of tonnes of legal food waste as it is. Couple that with the fact that treated food waste, even if processed in centrally controlled plants, would be highly variable in quality, which would need managing, and have to be made into a powder form to benefit most producers, which takes more energy, and it probably wouldn’t be that cheap by then anyway!  

The campaign itself is flawed because it focuses on providing a solution to the food waste problem without even trying to deal with why there’s so much food waste in the first place; that’s where I think they should spend their energy.

Worryingly, however, the campaign is gaining traction. They seem to be selling the concept on the basis that the pig industry thinks it’s a great idea. And, although I agree the treated waste aspect warrants further investigation, what we don’t need is for smallholders to suddenly feel justified for feeding their pigs kitchen scraps and for shops and restaurants to start selling off food waste cheap around the back door to anyone willing to take the risk and save a few bob.

We’ve already had to come down on one restaurant owner in Yorkshire who was proudly publicising the fact that they’d just bought some pigs to feed their restaurant waste to. This, sadly, is likely to be one of the potentially devastating side-effects of the Pig Idea campaign and probably just the tip of the iceberg.

They may have well-meaning long-term aspirations on reducing food waste and utilising it in the most effective way, but the imagery of local pig bins and harking back to the old post-war era really won’t help the professional way that this issue needs to be managed. All the more reason for notifiable disease contingency planning then!

As this will be my last contribution for a while, as Lizzie takes over sharing her NPA experiences with you during the next few months, I just wanted to wish all of you out there in the fields a bountiful harvest, and for those in the pig sheds and fields, a blessed drop in the temperature. I can seriously sympathise with those sows…

See you in April!

> Dr Zoe Davies is general manager of the NPA. For more information visit:  

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