A few weeks ago, two little piggies went wee-wee-wee all the way home to the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology. On-campus dining services like The J are working with CCAT by delivering their compost to feed the pig project. Instead of the food waste going to the bin, it can fill the bellies of the pigs.
CCAT acquired the two baby kunekune pigs from Tule Fog Farm in an attempt to reduce Humboldt State’s organic carbon footprint.
Ben Nguyen, the primary animal caretaker, farmer, project manager and a co-director of CCAT, explained that, depending on their nutrient demand, the pigs will eat as much or as little as they need in order to maintain healthy growth.
“Usually what we pick up from The J is around 10 pounds of food a day,” Nguyen said.
The kunekune pig is a small grazing pig that can survive on a low-calorie diet and can weigh anywhere from 150 to 400 pounds. Although different breeders may breed for a smaller size, the pigs from Tule Fog Farm average around 200 to 300 pounds, making them the ideal size for an on-campus composter.
The pigs will probably be on campus at CCAT eating food waste for the next semester unless someone wishes to keep the project going through the summer and so-on, since Nguyen will be graduating in May.
Some students are against keeping the pigs and are seeking to purchase the pigs and send them to a sanctuary. But for now, after the completion of the project, the pigs are arranged to be returned back to Tule Fog Farm.
Before they were adopted by CCAT, Shail Pec-Crouse, Tule Fog Farm owner and farmer, introduced the pigs to a diverse diet. Tule Fog Farm pigs ate compost as a nutritious supplement to their natural grazing diet of fresh grass.
“We take kitchen waste from a couple of local restaurants like Slice of Humboldt Pie and Los Bagels,” Pec-Crouse said.
According to Oxymem, a DuPont brand, when food waste is thrown in the trash and decays unnaturally among plastic and other non-biodegradable things in landfills, a toxic liquid called leachate is produced, which has a high ammonia concentration that isn’t easily biodegraded. Compost solves this problem by keeping biodegradable materials out of landfills so that it can continue its life cycle and be returned to the ground naturally.
Robert Just, a local livestock veterinarian, described the relationship between human trash and pig diets as an evolutionary interaction. He explained that since humans and pigs have lived symbiotically for so long, their gut biomes may have adjusted to eating our over-ripe food waste.
Pigs have digestive tracts that are unique to livestock animals, but are similar to the human gut. They have one simple stomach, just like people. Pigs are omnivores and need a diverse diet consisting of grains, fats, protein and greens. This diverse diet makes them an excellent option for getting rid of food waste or any organic waste in general.
“Pigs aren’t indestructible though,” Just said. “And they are still susceptible to illness from molds and some fungus, but this can be easily avoided by cooking the food into a slop.”
This project is one more step towards increasing sustainability on campus and problem-solving to reduce food waste.