Pigs have been farmed like almost forever since human history recorded. Indeed, pigs and its products have been a part of human’s history especially in culinary world. And in this modern world, pig farms have also become modernized.
By modernized pig farm, we mean the pigs are farmed massively in a huge farming area that can contain up to thousands of livestock at once. Many of those farms are not humane nor eco-friendly, with many aspects being ignored by the farmers.
Here, we will talk about one aspect in modern pig farming. Well, one of the biggest expenses in pig farms must be the food, and in this case, we are indeed talking about feeding farmed pigs.
The Vegas Heaven
Las Vegas Livestock, previously known as R.C. Farms, is known as a huge pig farm with over 5000 pigs being farmed. To feed all of those pigs, they usually process the leftovers produced by Vegas casinos every single day, in addition to usual pig food.
One of the reasons is because Vegas have so many leftovers every day, and no chance that they can serve their guests with leftover. The cheapest and the most ‘sustainable’ way to get rid of those leftovers is to feed them to 5000 hungry pigs.
“Yes, we serve food and, yes, people love to eat food in Las Vegas. That’s part of the reason they come here. For years we’ve been sending not only food scraps to pig farms but also really high-quality food,” said Yalmaz Siddiqui, VP of corporate sustainability for MGM Resorts International.
The leftovers are boiled and processed into warm slop before being fed into pigs. This way, the pigs won’t be too picky about the food they get and just happily fill their tummies. The amount of pig food acquired this way can reach up to 20 tons, every single day.
“We see like whole loins, prime rib, coming through. It’s just ridiculous the amount of food that is wasted, but we’re glad that we’re able to capture it and do something beneficial,” Hank Combs, the co-owner of the farm said. But it was the story before coronavirus attacked.
The year 2020 has been so much challenging so far. Coronavirus attack is the main story in every single primetime news, and people are forced to live in a new normal condition to avoid being one of the victims of the virus.
The thing is, it also happens in Las Vegas, where casinos are still closed until further notice. It means the restaurants in the casinos no longer serve food for customers, and thus there is no leftovers too because simply there is no customers.
It directly affects the pig farm run by Las Vegas Livestock. Combs said that he has to find other sources of foods that can replace 20 tons of leftovers given by Vegas casinos every day to feed their pigs, and it is not an easy job.
“We get some product from other communities. We have products that come in from Denver and Idaho, California because they see the value in what we do here,” he said. “Any food recycling opportunities are welcome. Please keep us in mind. This is a hard time for all, remember to spread kindness,” as also written in the farm’s social media.
However, that’s still not enough and the farm is then forced to ‘slow down’ by selling half of its livestock. Can you see here that even something that they call ‘sustainable innovation’ is not even enough to give their livestock humane treat.
The Meaning Of Sustainable Farming
The next question is, can farming pig ever be sustainable? Well, in some ways, it can, and in some other ways it cannot. Feeding them our leftovers is still acceptable, and it is pretty sustainable too, as long as we also eat sustainable foods. But being sustainable is more than just taking care of their foods.
Pigs are basically grain eaters, meaning they are better fed with grains compared to raised entirely on grasses and such thing. However, in nature, wild pigs often eat with various things other than grains like tubers and fallen fruits.
It shows how easy to make their food sustainable. Just grow some tubers such as sweet potato, cassava, taro, radish, and other fast-growing tuber plants to feed. We can also make pig farms more sustainable by collecting ugly produces from other farmers and feed them to pigs.
So, how to make pig farms more sustainable apart of their food? Their manure and emission are the most unsustainable part of pig farm. Pork production contributes a rather small but significant amount of greenhouse gas emission to the atmosphere.
Recycling it as natural fertilizer, in example, can help us prevent the release of greenhouse gasses in pig manure. And if combined with our tuber plants, we can actually make a self-sustaining organic farm that can continue the recycling process by its own.
The Ancient Way Of Farming Pigs
In one of our articles, we have discussed about silvopasture. Silvopasture is an ancient farming technique that allows the animals to be free in a specific type of pasture. This pasture is different from typical farmlands, because it is full of trees.
Animals are allowed to graze in the green area, and their manure will work as natural fertilizer for the plants. “The fruit and nuts will provide the food for the pigs, chickens, cows and other animals who graze there,” said Alfredo Cunhal, an agricultural scientist and the owner of Herdade do Freixo do Meio farm.
There are two easy ways to convert from regular farm into silvopasture farming. First is by planting functional plants that can give food to the cattle in farmland. Even though it may require some time before it functions well, but once it works it can provide our livestock free food for a long time.
Second is by integrating pasture to woodland. This is the easier way to start a silvopasture if you already own a patch of woodland. What you need to do is to thin it out by protecting some important trees with fence, and let your pigs graze all the rest.
Silvopasture is an ancient method that has proven itself to be able to auto-sustain farmlands for a long time. Data also showed that this method can give significant increase overall productivity for the farmers.
“The results are measured not just in profits, but in the social and ecological benefits created. We cannot say exactly, but our hypothesis is that we can double, even treble production without taking away from the land,” said Ricardo Silva, a trained biologist who switched to forestry before coming to Herdade do Freixo do Meio.
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