Search icon

Where there's swill, there's a way

News Section Icon Published 12/06/2013


A smart new anti-food waste campaign is calling for catering waste to be fed to pigs rather than tossed into landfill. The Pig Idea highlights a shocking paradox: we currently feed our pigs (who can eat kitchen waste) high-quality cereal crops and soya, when almost a billion people in the world are hungry.

Behind the idea

Launched last week on World Environment Day, The Pig Idea is the brainchild of food-waste expert Tristram Stuart. The campaign is a natural extension of his “Feeding the 5000” initiative, which encourages people to make better use of their kitchen cast-offs.

This time the eco-hero has teamed up with Thomasina Miers, chef and founder of the popular Mexican street-food chain Wahaca. He also has the backing of several high-profile foodies (aptly known as “hambassadors”), including Michel Roux Jr and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (also a Compassion in World Farming visionary). It’s a powerful mix.

Their goal is to overturn the EU ban on the feeding of food waste, or swill, to pigs. Stuart and co believe that the ruling was a knee-jerk reaction to the devastating Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in 2001, insisting that politicians overlooked the negative impacts of such a move on the economy and the environment.

The campaign seeks to restore public confidence in the practice of feeding surplus food to pigs by introducing “a robust legal framework for its safe processing and use to prevent the outbreak of animal diseases”.


  • Almost one billion people in the world are malnourished.
  • A third of the planet’s food goes to waste.
  • According to the UN, feeding livestock food waste instead of crops could free up food for three billion people.
  • In Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, using food waste to feed animals is encouraged; in Europe, it remains illegal.

As nature intended

Humans have been using pigs to recycle food waste for thousands of years. In fact, the reason the large-snouted creatures were domesticated in the first place was because they were so useful to us – polishing off our food scraps and giving us meat and manure in return.


The truth is that pigs are real-life dustbins, expertly converting edible waste into ready calories for human consumption. And as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall affirms, this is by far the most efficient set-up:

“Pigs can be a highly effective recycling system, with the potential to turn a massive problem of food waste into a delicious solution. It’s mad not to.”

A common-sense approach to food

The arguments in favour of The Pig Idea are hard to deny. Every year, millions of tonnes of soya and other crops are fed to our livestock. Not only is this expensive, but it’s having a devastating impact on the planet and its inhabitants: great swathes of rainforest are being destroyed in order to make room for crops, and feeding pigs a diet of grains and soya is putting untold pressure on already stressed food supplies.

Closer to home, farmers are being forced to pay high prices for animal feed, and caterers must bear the costly inconvenience of disposing of their waste.

In short, feeding pigs our discarded food would help tackle a range of issues, including deforestation, climate change and poverty. And it makes financial sense.

Pigging out for the better

The beauty of The Pig Idea is its simplicity – it’s about reviving a tried-and-tested, efficient method of recycling that has significant environmental and economic benefits.

You can show your support for The Pig Idea by adding your name to the petition and attending the feast in Trafalgar Square in November.


You are using an outdated browser which we do not support. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).