Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 March 2018

Swill ban no longer justified says new study

Pigs (Photo by Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
Pigs (Photo by Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

New research suggests that revoking the EU ban on feeding food waste or swill to pigs would free up 1.8 million hectares of agricultural land - an area roughly half the size of Germany - allowing it to be used for a different purpose.

The study from the University of Cambridge found the ban imposed following the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease epidemic could be replaced by technology that could heat treat over 100 million tonnes of food wasted in the EU each year.

Currently around 1.8 million hectares of land is used for grain and soybean-based feed production - including over a quarter of a million hectares of Brazilian forest and savannah.

Despite the ban in the EU, other East Asian countries have been using heat treatments to recycle food waste as animal feed.

The models in the latest study have shown that pig swill would decrease the amount of land the EU pork industry requires by over 21pc and halve the ever-increasing feed costs faced by pig farmers in Europe.

The researchers described the EU ban as a "knee-jerk reaction" that no longer makes sense when East Asian countries have demonstrated food waste can be safely recycled.

"Following the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, different countries looked at the same situation, the same evidence, and came to opposite policy conclusions," said one of the researchers from the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, who led the study, published today in the journal Food Policy.

"In many countries in East Asia we have a working model for the safe use of food waste as pig feed. It is a highly regulated and closely monitored system that recycles food waste and produces low-cost pig feed with a low environmental impact."

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It added that swill is cheaper than grain and soybean-based pig feed.

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