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What's up with feeding swill — food waste — to pigs?

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(Photo by Nicolas Castez on Unsplash)

Feeding food waste to pigs is a widespread waste management strategy in South Africa. In general it is cheap, pigs are fed and the waste doesn't go to landfill.

It's a win win. Or is it?

In South Africa the biggest risk to the pork industry is African Swine Fever (ASF) . ASF is a virus carried by feral pigs, warthogs and bush-pigs and is spread by ticks or by touching or eating contaminated feed. There is no cure for ASF and will kill a domesticated pig within 2-10 days.

There are designated ASF controlled areas in South Africa which cover parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and KwaZulu Natal Provinces.

Within these areas strict measures for the control of ASF is applied to the keeping, slaughter and sale of pigs. These include:

  • no swill can be fed to pigs in an accredited piggery where high levels of biological control apply.
  • in a more informal piggery — where the feeding of swill to pigs is not "preferrable" — if swill is fed to pigs it, by law, has to be boiled for over 60 minutes. Moreover, for traceability reasons, the source of the swill has to be recorded and records kept.

You can find more information on these regulations here and an information leaflet here.

In Australia no swill is allowed to be fed to pigs. Zero. Nada. Nothing.

According to the Animal Diseases Act (Act 35 of 1984), in the whole of South Africa, swill feeding of pigs is prohibited unless it is properly boiled for at least 1 hour or treated and sterilized.

When you allow a pig farmer to collect your food waste are you confident that they are in compliance with these regulations?

While these strict regulations apply to the feeding of swill to pigs in designated ASF control areas, ethical and welfare considerations are also important:

  • is it right to feed pigs swill that might contain pork or pork by-products?
  • is it right to feed pigs swill that is rotten?

We have personally seen a hotel dump their rotten grease trap waste into a swill bin in rural KwaZulu Natal. When we questioned the practice, the hotel manager just said:

"Oh, but I'm not going to eat one of those pigs."

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