Dutch agro-industrialists are building ever bigger pig stables with ever growing numbers of pigs eating ever cheaper feed. In Trouw, director of environmental organisation Milieudefensie Hans Berkhuizen warns we are heading for a major pork pile up.
There are simply too many pigs and there is a limit to export possibilities.
Eighty percent of Dutch pork is exported abroad. Production costs are scaled down to a bare minimum causing farmers to cut corners. They are using cheap feed from South America and are concentrating enormous numbers of pigs in huge mega stables. The animals are given antibiotic feed additives to keep disease at bay thereby creating antibiotic resistance in bacteria, a serious threat to human health.
Predictably, the answer of the Dutch pig farmers union NVV to dwindling sales is another scale-up. But that is exactly what got the sector into trouble in the first place and what will bring it to its knees.
Ever decreasing production costs are not a solution. In the cheap stakes, emerging meat exporters like Brazil will finally win. And then what are we going to do with all those pigs in all those mega stables?
Fortunately there are ways of tackling the problem. Smaller stables would enable farmers to produce meat in a more sustainable manner, with more regard for animal welfare. Animals that are allowed to behave naturally will need less medication.
There is another important advantage. Producing less pork would allow us to close the nutrient circle.
At the moment, scarce arable land in South America is used to produce cheap soy for animal feed. We are now in a situation where South American food production is endangered for a food stuff used to produce meat on such a scale that it has to be thrown away.
In the Netherlands itself the pig population is creating problems for the soil. It is struggling to cope with the amount of manure that is being produced. If the number of pigs were to be brought down, our own farmland could be used to produce feed.
It will mean less export abroad. But that is happening already. The question for the pig farmers and their unions is: do you want a reduced export or no export at all?
This is an unofficial translation