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10 Jul 2009

The Potential Hazards of the Deregulation of Local Pig Swill

In the ‘Can Totnes and District Feed Itself’ paper due to be launched here in a few hours (get ready…), one of the recommendations is a relaxation of the laws surrounding the collection of local food waste and feeding it to pigs.  This will need to be a key element of more localised food systems.  There are a variety of reasons why some might oppose this, but I’m sure that none of them will have considered the potential rather alarming risks that are revealed in this news clip below.

Categories: Food

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Madeline McKeever
10 Jul 2:32pm

Foot and mouth would be a worry. If someone brings an infected bit of meat from a country where Foot and Mouth disease is endemic and it finds its way into the swill it could start another outbreak.

Peter Bralesford
10 Jul 8:38pm

Just a thought, but what about human manure? As the ultimate consumer of the food produced, it seems absurd to me that nearly all human waste is doused in water and disposed of.

I remember reading an excellent book called “Dreams and Disasters: a History of Innovation Gone Wrong” by Adam Hart-Davis, and was particularly fascinated by his coverage of the earth closet. The premise is simple. When you flush a water closet, you are using nine litres of good drinking water, and in doing so, generating about five times the volume of blackwater that you would otherwise.

There is the issue of decomposition time too. Underwater decomposition is anaerobic and slow, and can produce dangerous buildups of bacteria and methane, the latter being a potent greenhouse gas, although in anaerobic digester the latter is obviously very desirable!

Decomposition in dry earth however, is aerobic and rapid, and quickly breaks down to form fantastic fertiliser. If you divert the urine, then that can also be watered down and used as fertiliser.

The only reason that the water closet has won favour over the earth closet is convenience. You don’t have to shovel out a water closet, do you? Still, I think that earth closets should be considered for future waste disposal/reprocessing. What do you all think?

Peter Bralesford
10 Jul 8:46pm

Ah, sorry. For a minute there I thought pig swill was pig manure… D’OH!

10 Jul 11:37pm

Human waste in developed countries contains harmful chemicals and hormones that are not broken down by the biological treatment process. In the case of urban sewerage systems These harmful substances are discharged to the environment through the outfall pipes or are concentrated in solid waste that is a biproduct of the treatment process. The solid waste should not be applied to land that is used for growing food. The discharges from the outfall accumulate these harmful in bottom sediments. There was a case in a western country where people became ill from eating food grown on land fertilised with human waste.

The chemicals that end up in the waste stream come from a wide range of pharmaceutals and products such as shampoo, domestic cleaners etc. Research on the internet will provide scientific and detailed information.

Graham Burnett
11 Jul 12:14pm

I remember when I was at school all the dinner left overs used to go in ‘the pig bucket’, allegedly for ‘feeding to the pigs’, but never sure if that was actually true as it was an urban school with not many farms around…

I do remember the content of the bucket being a vile mess of pink blancmange (even if we hadn’t had blancmange that day I seem to recall…), mincemeat and mashed potatoes and the smell used to make me wretch…

el mussol
11 Jul 8:12pm

living in rural catalunya, and not having mains water, we have found the following very useful:

great detail on how to do it really and all the attendant health risks [or otherwise as it turns out].

15 Jul 10:37pm

About 40 years ago I worked in a very well run works canteen. We had a bin set aside for the pig farmer, he used to come round several times a week because he could trust us not to contaminate the bin.

No animal produce was allowed to go in the pigs bin. Fruit, vegetable and cereal matter only. Waste meat, fish, and dairy went in the ordinary waste bin. It takes discipline though.

After collecting from our canteen, the pig man would call in at the fish quay at North Shields, and they would give him undersized or damaged fish from the day’s catch. He knew that stuff was safe.

We really don’t ever want that foot and mouth disease coming back here.