We asked Denise Beaulieu, an assistant professor on monogastric nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan: What do pigs eat?
According to Beaulieu, the old adage ‘you eat like a pig’ is quite accurate. This is because pigs have a digestive system that is similar to humans and, like us, are omnivores, meaning they can eat food from both plant and animal sources. Even though they can eat almost anything, pigs raised for food are fed a mixture of grains, like corn, wheat and barley, and byproducts from the food manufacturing.
Byproducts for dinner?
Byproducts are materials leftover from making other goods. In agriculture, processes for producing human food, like grinding wheat for flour or crushing seeds for oil, create leftover plant material that can be fed to animals and livestock instead of being wasted. Pressing canola seed and soybeans to extract the oil leaves a byproduct called meal. Canola and soybean meal are used as a high quality source of protein and amino acids for livestock diets.
These leftover plant materials aren’t desirable for human consumption but animals can digest them easily and use the energy they get and turn it into protein – which we then consume in the form of bacon and other pork products. These efficiencies reduce waste, provide an excellent food source for animals and also lowers our carbon footprint.
Take your Vitamins
Pigs, like people, need the right combination of vitamins and minerals to grow and be healthy. Instead of taking a multivitamin once a day, farmers work with animal nutritionists to determine the right combination of vitamins and minerals, fibre, protein and energy, like fats and carbohydrates, to blend together for their pigs.
On the Menu
Just like you can enjoy potatoes in many different forms, like french fries, tater tots or mashed potatoes, pig feed comes in multiple forms. The optimal pig feed is a finely ground mix called mash that contains fats, carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals that are balanced for each pig’s growth stage. Grains and meal can also be ground into small particles, mixed with vitamins and minerals, then pressed into pellets. These pellets are easily digested by piglets.
In addition to a nutritionally balanced diet, access to high quality, clean drinking water is also very important. Growing pigs can drink more than 10 litres of water per day during hot weather.
So the next time someone says, “You eat like a pig,” you can say, “I know, thanks!”