The Pig Idea

Governments in the UK have been promoting anaerobic digestion as the best way to deal with our food waste problem. But, as Edd Colbert suggests, there might be a better (more porcine) way of doing things – with added benefits

This article was taken from Issue 75

Pigs are perhaps the original solution to the problem of food waste, but one that current farming practice and legislation has put out to graze. Indeed, it was their voracious appetite for our leftovers and offcuts that was one of the main reasons humans first domesticated pigs, and for centuries they helped to make sure that little went to waste. In the last hundred years, cheap grain reduced pigs’ role as waste disposers, but it was the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak in the UK that led to swill kicking the bucket.

In the wake of the epidemic, which paralysed the British countryside, cost billions, and led to a cull of perhaps as many as 10 million animals, enquiries tentatively traced its source back to an intensive pig farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland – although suspicions remained that the disease may have been present in the sheep population for months before the outbreak was identified. The cause, according to the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (which was replaced by Defra), was the pigs illegally being fed unprocessed swill containing contaminated meat from restaurants. The ban therefore was a result of a farmer breaking the law – not the result of the law being wrong.