Michigan farms may not cook and feed garbage to swine

Laws prohibiting garbage feeding of pigs: A useful tool for preventing African Swine Fever

for decorative use only
Fig. 1 Adapted from USDA website: fs-swine-producers-garbage-feeding.pdf (usda.gov). States shaded blue prohibit garbage feeding to pigs, states shaded yellow allow garbage feeding.

Michigan’s Public Act 466 of 1988 (as amended; Animal Industry Act MCL 287.717a) defines garbage as “any animal origin products, including those of poultry and fish origin, or other animal material resulting from the handling, processing, preparation, cooking, and consumption of foods. Garbage includes, but is not limited to, any refuse of any type that has been associated with any such material at any time during the handling, preparation, cooking, or consumption of food.” In Michigan, a license to cook and feed garbage to swine will not be issued to anyone. A licensing option for cooking and feeding is provided for in the federal Swine Health Protection Act, which prohibits the feeding of garbage to swine unless the farm is licensed to do so and the garbage has been cooked to 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes before feeding. The cooking or treatment is required to kill disease-causing organisms which can infect swine when garbage containing animal by-products originating from infected animals is used as feed.

Currently in the U.S., 23 states, including Michigan, do not grant garbage feeding licensure, prohibiting the feeding garbage to swine. Including Puerto Rico, 28 states allow it under the requirements of the Federal Act. Among the top 10 swine producing states, five prohibit garbage feeding while five license it.

APHIS role in preventing foreign animal diseases in pigs

Among its numerous responsibilities, the USDA’s Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) implements and enforces policies designed to protect livestock from highly consequential animal diseases (HCD). In swine, these diseases include Classical Swine Fever (CSF), foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and African Swine Fever (ASF). Any HCD outbreak in the U.S. could have disastrous consequences to swine health and the pork industry, including immediate loss of access to critical export markets. The Swine Health Protection Act sets forth enforcement through U.S. district courts and describes the civil and criminal penalties for violating it. Importantly, the Act specifies that individual state laws that prohibit feeding of garbage to pigs will be fully recognized and have precedence before the federal act. Thus, again, in states that prohibit garbage feeding to swine, such as Michigan, a license to treat garbage for this purpose under the Act is not available.

Garbage feeding and ASF outbreaks in pigs

Garbage feeding in pigs has been linked to outbreaks of ASF and other HCDs throughout the world. A 2007 outbreak of ASF in eastern Europe occurred after wild boar fed on ASF-contaminated food waste at an international airport; the food waste was traced to pork products reported by Gogin et al., 2013. In early 2018, an ASF outbreak in Belgium is thought to be caused by discarded waste from a pork product eaten by feral pigs, which spread the disease to commercial pork production facilities there. In August 2018, the first case of ASF was detected in eastern China. Since then, the disease has spread west and south to other parts of SE Asia. In a Feedstuffs Report, 2018, Scientists at China’s Ministry of Agriculture linked 62% of the initial 21 outbreaks in China to feeding kitchen scraps to pigs. A policy forbidding that practice in China was implemented within three months of detecting the initial cases, but the disease was already spreading rapidly by then. 

The concept that garbage feeding and human foods brings additional risk of disease outbreaks in pork production is supported by numerous studies. Among the more compelling are surveys of food items collected at international airports that accept flights from counties with less strict guidelines in place to prevent export of HCDs. For example, a survey conducted in Australia 2020 over a two-week period in late 2019 showed that 202 out of 418 (48%) pork-containing items seized from passengers on flights from countries with active outbreaks of ASF tested positive for ASF.

The urgency of this issue for U.S. pork producers was raised in late July 2021 when an outbreak of ASF in Dominican Republic pigs was detected. This outbreak represents the first HCD to reach the western hemisphere in over 40 years. The original source of virus causing this outbreak, which occurred along the country’s border with Haiti, remains under investigation. However, recognizing that ASF contaminated human food products are a likely source, pork-sniffing dog patrols have been added to Coast Guard teams patrolling waters off Puerto Rico that are common entry points for immigrants from Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Further clarification of Michigan’s policy

In Michigan, “bakery wastes, pasteurized eggs, domestic dairy products, candy wastes, fruits, and vegetables are allowed to be used as feed for swine provided, they are not associated with animal origin products at any time during the handling, preparation, cooking, or consumption of food.” If feeding these products, a feed handling, processing, preparation, cooking, or feeding facility must meet one of the following: 1) have no animal origin products on the site of the premises that prepares animal feed products, 2) have separate handling, processing, preparation and cooking areas for animal origin products on site of the premises that prepares the animal feed products, or 3) have written procedures in place and followed that ensure the handling, processing, preparation, and cooking areas are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to such areas being used for animal feed products.

Michigan does license and oversee commercial rendering. Rendered animal products -- ground and heat-treated to a minimum of 230 degrees Fahrenheit) from commercial licensed facilities are allowed to be used as feed for swine. It is render’s responsibility to keep records and provide verification at the request of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Animal Industry Division and the Animal Feed Safety-Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division directors and managers that any animal feed products are used for feed for swine were properly processed, identified, and distributed without any contact with other non-rendered animal origin products.

Pork producers’ position on garbage feeding

Most pork producers understand the risks inherent in garbage feeding of pigs far outweigh the benefits, especially during this time of heightened concerns over continuing spread of ASF. States, including Michigan, that don’t permit garbage feeding are taking a proactive step to protect the pork industry. This step is fully supported by the Michigan Pork Producers Association and the National Pork Producers Association, along with USDA, who have included strong recommendations against garbage feeding in their Secure Pork Supply and other FAD prevention educational outreach to farmers.

Steps to reduce the risks of ASF or another FAD on your farm

  • Don’t feed table scraps or other food waste to pigs.
  • When traveling, don’t bring animal products back into the country.
  • Make sure anyone entering your farm who has recently travelled to regions affected by ASF did not have contact with swine or swine facilities while there. Make sure they are not carrying food products that could accidently be consumed by pigs on your farm.
  • Don’t feed pigs any parts of animals you’ve killed while hunting, but especially feral swine or deer.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment, tucks/trailers, clothing, and other items that have been exposed to pigs (alive or dead) from other farms.
  • Maintain a strict rodent control program.
  • Keep all wildlife and pets that consume pork or other animal products away from your pens.
  • If you source pigs from a state that permits garbage feeding, make sure you and everyone you know understand the risks inherent in this practice; take steps to ensure that farmers who feed garbage to pigs are treating it properly to destroy potential disease-causing viruses and bacteria.

Help is available from the Michigan State University Extension Pork Team  you need assistance or are looking for further guidance regarding this topic.

Madonna Benjamin, 517-614-8875 gemus@msu.edu

Beth Ferry, 269-876-2745 franzeli@msu.edu

Dale Rozeboom, 517-202-7415 rozeboom@msu.edu

Dave Thompson, 269-832-8403 thom1637@msu.edu

Casey Zangaro, 785-285 2127 zangaroc@msu.edu

Did you find this article useful?