The Pig Idea: Thomasina Miers and Tristram Stuart start campaign to feed restaurant food waste to pigs

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food waste Recycling

Thomasina Miers and Tristram Stuart launch The Pig Idea, a campaign which aims to get food waste back on the menu for pigs
Thomasina Miers and Tristram Stuart launch The Pig Idea, a campaign which aims to get food waste back on the menu for pigs
Wahaca co-founder Thomasina Miers and food waste expert Tristram Stuart are lobbying for a change in European law to allow surplus food waste from restaurants, supermarkets and other food businesses to be fed to pigs, a practice that has been outlawed since 2002. 

The pair's campaign, called The Pig Idea, was launched last week with the aim of getting food waste back on the menu for British pigs which they believe would not only avoid the current economic and environmental costs of recycling food waste, but would also stop the need to import crops such as wheat, soy and maize as pig feed. 

According to research released by waste reduction organisation WRAP last week​, 3.4m tonnes of food waste is produced in the out-of-home sector each year with the majority sent to anaerobic digestion plants.

The Pig Idea

The Pig Idea campaign, which has already drawn the support of chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Giorgio Locatelli, John Torode and Fergus Henderson, aims to bring back the old practice of feeding scraps to pigs while also encouraging greater use of legally permissible food waste, such as unsold bread, dairy, fruit and vegetables for pig feed. It will also campaign to change European law and allow food waste to be diverted for use as pig feed. 

Eight pigs at Stepney City Farm will be fed on food waste over the next few months as part of The Pig Idea

Stuart, founder of Feeding the 5000, author and campaigner on food waste, said the idea could reduce the need for Europe to import the 40m tonnes of soya grown on Latin American rainforests each year to feed livestock and would free-up grain to feed an extra 3 billion people. 

"Humans have been recycling food waste by feeding it to pigs for thousands of years. Reviving this tradition will help to protect forests that are being chopped down to grow the millions of tonnes of soya we import from South America every year to feed our livestock," he said. 

Miers added: "Cutting down rainforest in the Amazon to grow pig feed for pigs in Europe makes no sense. Let's save all our delicious food waste and feed it to the pigs. Not only will we be saving the rainforest (and slowing down climate change) but we'll be bringing down the cost of pig feed and pork."

Food waste

As part of the campaign, the team at The Pig Idea has started to rear eight pigs at Stepney City Farm in London on a menu of permissible food waste such as spent brewer's grains, whey and unsold vegetables and bread collected from around London.

It is hoped the practice will show how feasible it can be to feed food waste to pigs and persuade Europe to allow catering waste to be fed to pigs once again. The practice came to an end in Britain in 2001 in response to the outbreak of Food and Mouth Disease and was extended to the whole of Europe the following year. 

Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming said: “Food waste is one of the biggest scandals of our time. It is not only a humanitarian and environmental issue, but an animal welfare issue too. Sending vast quantities of food to landfill means that huge numbers of animals have effectively endured the misery of factory farming for nothing. Recycling properly treated food waste through pigs kept in decent conditions is a common sense way of feeding both pigs and people.”

The Pig Idea Campaign is calling for:

  1. Increasing the proportion of legally permissible waste food redirected to animal feed
  2. Starting the long process of changing European law to allow the feeding of properly sterilised food waste including catering waste to pigs.
  3. Safe systems to be implemented across Europe that collect food waste from shops, restaurants, institutional caterers and manufacturers
  4. The food waste to be properly and safely treated (monitored by enforcement agencies)
  5. Pig farms to be adapted to properly handle and distribute this feed to pigs, with farmers particularly encouraged and supported to feed food waste to pigs in higher welfare systems
  6. A market to be established for sustainably produced pork promoted to consumers

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