Simple caution: feeding pigs on certain waste foods/kitchen scraps

Pigs have another huge benefit, and that’s waste disposal. True to their reputation, pigs will eat just about anything. Feeding them scraps and other kitchen waste reduces your garbage-bin load (minus compostables, of course) as well as your feed bill. But before you load up a bucket with all the spoiled contents of the refrigerator, here are some tips and even a handful of laws that you should follow. A pig’s anatomy is eerily similar to our own—moreso than I prefer to dwell on, to be honest.

Pigs have the same muscles as humans, and many of their organs are nearly identical to ours. In terms of digestion, this means they process feed in ways pretty similar to how we convert food to fuel. What am I getting at? Basically, don’t feed your pigs what you wouldn’t eat yourself. This includes random yard waste containing unidentified weeds that might be toxic. It includes inedible items such as paper and wood. And don’t feed pigs anything moldy, slimy or otherwise suspect. We might be inclined to consider pigs steel-bellied garbage disposals, but if something might make you sick, it can take down a hog, too.

Though it’s somewhat standard practice among some hog farmers to feed dead piglets to adult pigs—it’s called “feedback” and is believed to provide protection against rotavirus and E. coli—consider some issues before you drop pork chops into the feeding tray. First, whether it’s a sow eating her own piglets or a pig gobbling up bacon, it’s important to recognize what this is: cannibalism.

While we can (and should) recoil at the societal implications of the term, there are other problems with the practice. Kuru is a terrible human disease tied directly to cannibalism amongst tribes in Papua New Guinea. Feeding cow remains back to cattle, meanwhile, spread bovine spongiform encephalitis, commonly called mad cow disease. Both of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted between different species, including humans. (More than 150 people have died from mad cow disease to date.) There might not be a swine-bred variant of these diseases now, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.