LEFTOVERS should be put back on the menu for pigs to conserve food supplies, cut waste and farming costs and protect the environment, campaigners are urging.
The Pig Idea campaign wants to bring back the practice of feeding waste food to pigs and aims to encourage more use of food such as unsold bread, dairy, fruit and vegetables as pig feed.
But the National Pig Association, which represents the commercial pig industry, says feeding leftover food to pigs is too great a risk.
Using waste from catering and homes as pig feed was banned in the UK in 2001 in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis due to concerns that the disease originated on a farm illegally feeding pigs unprocessed restaurant waste. The ban was then extended across Europe.
The pig bins that were a familiar sight in schools and canteens vanished, and pig farmers increased their use of crops such as wheat, soy and maize as animal feed.
But feeding food waste to pigs would reduce the costs of disposing of leftover food and the price farmers have to pay for animal feed, the campaigners argue.
Crops such as cereals could be diverted away from feeding pigs to humans, improving food security, and jobs and revenue could be created in a new “eco-feed“ industry for collecting, treating and distributing the waste so it could be fed to pigs.
The campaign is being driven by chef Thomasina Miers and Tristram Stuart, food waste expert from Feeding the 5,000 campaign.
He said: “Humans have been recycling food waste by feeding it to pigs for thousands of years. Reviving this tradition will help to protect forests that are being chopped down to grow the millions of tons of soya we import from South America every year to feed our livestock.”
Ms Miers said: “Let’s save all our delicious food waste and feed it to the pigs. Not only will we be saving the rainforest – and slowing down climate change – but we’ll be bringing down the cost of pig feed and pork. Let them eat waste!”
The pair kicked off the Pig Idea campaign on World Environment Day yesterday by starting the process of rearing eight pigs at Stepney City Farm, East London, on a menu of food waste from around the capital.
The campaign aims to restore public confidence in the practice of feeding surplus food to pigs and raise awareness among supermarkets, businesses and farmers about using legally permissible food waste, as well as lobbying to change the law.
Dr Zoe Davies, general manager at the NPA, said: “The pig industry will always use a lot of byproducts and co-products but they are highly regulated. Anything fed to pigs has to come from assured sources.
“All of the products fed to pigs come from factories with no meat products on site so there is no likelihood of cross-contamination.”
The NPA was not against the feeding of waste to pigs, she said, but its supply had to be carefully controlled so there was no danger of a return to the devastation of foot-and-mouth. She said: “We get very worried when people are encouraged to utilise leftover waste, scraps from their kitchen or leftover supermarket food. The element of risk is too high.
“African swine fever can live for 100 days in fresh meat and it annihilates the pig industry. It is already in countries around and in the EU, having crossed the borders from Russia where there is a big problem with it at the moment.
“There are many ways to use waste and we would suggest anaerobic digestion plants to generate energy. Perhaps the key thing is to look at how we can reduce the amount of waste we generate.”