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Pigs are interesting and seemingly rather cute. However, for their unfortunate role in transmitting diseases to those ignorant of the means for protecting themselves from pathogens, they earned a bad reputation early on. From Leviticus 11:7, the dietary laws of Judaism forbade the eating of pork in any form, condemning the pig as an unclean animal. The eating of pork is also prohibited in Islam, among Seventh-day Adventists, and in some other Christian denominations. Statistics aren’t available, but McDonald’s probably doesn’t sell many bacon cheeseburgers in the regions where these views are firmly held. (Fries with that?)

 

Still, it would seem pigs must be worth something. Each year, our porcine imports from Europe and the Orient are cultivated by the millions on nutritious U.S. feed (about 4 pounds of grain per pound of pig) until they weigh about 250 pounds. Pigs are culled after only six months and sold for about $150 per belly. (Actually, they are sold by the pound, e.g., $60 per hundredweight. This metric more accurately reflects what is really in store for today’s new, low-fat, genetically-manipulated porker.)

 

When one thinks about it, for all the care administered to the development of the young piglets in their computer-controlled incubators and communal macro-environments, one might conclude that a live six-month-old pig really doesn’t have any value. After all, it is not going to be lovingly cared for in a home (or yard) and taken for visits to the vet until it dies of old age. Instead, it is on its way to becoming someone’s lunch. Big chunks of it will be stored in someone’s freezer.

 

About a decade ago, we started learning something about pigs or, more precisely, their waste discharges when the intensity of their production resulted in problems and concerns for north central Missouri streams.

 

Thomas L. O’Connor and John T. O’Connor

Stream Biomonitoring Assesses the Impact of Large-Scale Livestock Production

      Water Engineering and Management, Vol. 146, No. 10, October, 1999.