Every pig keeper wants to cut feed costs, but no-one should be tempted to break the rules, just to save money. LIZ SHANKLAND reports on a new campaign to remind pig keepers of the regulations
The price of commercial feed has rocketed in recent years and finding a way to continue producing good, high-welfare pork at a price that makes customers want to keep on buying it is the main goal for many of us.
For lots of smallholders, taking on a few weaners is more about raising top-quality meat in an ethical way than making money. But we all want to do things as economically as possible and, when your smallholding experiment grows into a fledgling business and has to at least break even - if not make a profit - the day-to-day upkeep of those pigs becomes increasingly important.
It’s understandable that everyone wants to try and reduce costs, and feed is, undoubtedly, the biggest regular expense when raising livestock. However, a new campaign, led by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), has been launched to raise awareness of the ban on feeding kitchen waste - a major factor in spreading notifiable diseases like Foot and Mouth Disease and African Swine Fever (ASF). ASF is a particular concern at the moment, as the rapid spread of the virus across eastern Europe suggests it is only a matter of time before it reaches the United Kingdom. There is no vaccine and no cure, so the effect on our pig population and meat trade could be devastating.
The history behind the ban
In 1996, in the wake of the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) crisis, the practice of feeding meat and bone meal to pigs was banned. Just a few years later, following the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001, the UK Government banned the feeding of all catering waste. This was in case it might contain - or come into contact with – contaminated animal by-products. The ruling was subsequently extended by the EU to all member states.
Nothing which has been stored or prepared in a domestic or commercial kitchen can be fed to pigs. The only exception made is for completely vegan kitchens. It does not matter whether you are raising pigs for meat or as pets – the ban is applied across the board.
Marcus Bates, chief executive of the British Pig Association, said it was vital that pig keepers obeyed the law. “We all want to recycle and minimise waste to landfill, but feeding kitchen waste to pigs must never be part of that effort,” he stressed. Dr Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association (NPA), added, “Feeding illegal food waste, however harmless it might seem at the time, is just not worth the risk.” The BPA and NPA, along with other interested parties, are currently working with the APHA to produce a definitive guide for pig keepers to clarify what can and cannot be fed.
Other types of food waste
Most people will have come across pig producers who supplement their animals’ diet with deliveries of fruit and veg from
greengrocers, whey from cheese makers, bread and leftover dough from bakeries and supermarkets, grain used in breweries or distilleries, or apple pomace from cider makers. These by-products of the human food industry are often described as ‘co-products’, and are perfectly legal to feed – provided both the supplier and user comply with the registration process ( see panel on previous page), and adhere to rules regarding the management of facilities, equipment, quality control, storage, transport, and record keeping.
However, this type of ‘food waste’ is very different from the kind that gets produced in kitchens every day – which must never be fed to pigs. Liz Shankland is a pedigree pig breeder and the author of the Haynes Pig Manual. She teaches courses in pig keeping and smallholding at Humble by Nature (www. humblebynature.com)