Feeding Human Food Waste to Pigs in EU Could Save 1.8 Million Hectares of Land, Including Over 250,000 Hectares of Threatened Brazilian Forest and Savannah

A new study shows that if the European Union (EU) lifted the pig swill ban imposed following 2001’s foot-and-mouth disease epidemic, and also harnessed technologies developed in East Asian countries for “heat-treating” food waste to safely convert it to pig feed, approximately 1. hectares (~4.5 million acres or ~half the size of Germany) of land could be saved from being stripped for grain and soybean-based pig feed production – including over a 250,000 hectares (~618,000 acres) of Brazilian forest and savannah. While swill-feeding was banned across the EU in 2002 following the foot-and-mouth outbreak (triggered by a UK farmer illegally feeding uncooked food waste to pigs), other countries, such as Japan, responded by creating a highly regulated system for safely recycling heat-treated food waste as animal feed. Researchers describe the EU ban as a “knee-jerk reaction” that no longer makes sense when East Asian countries have demonstrated that food waste can be safely recycled. The models in the latest study show that pig swill reintroduction would not only decrease the amount of land the EU pork industry requires by 21.5%, but also cut in half the ever-increasing feed costs faced by European pig farmers. Pig swill (also called “hogwash”) is human food waste that is used to feed pigs. Researchers describe swill as a feed that is commonly used in other parts of the world, one that could save a huge amount of global resources, and provide an environmentally-sound recycling solution to the estimated 102.5 million tonnes (113 million US tons) of food wasted in the EU each year. Over 35% of human food waste is now recycled into animal feed in Japan, where swill-fed “Eco-Pork” is marketed as a premium product.
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