Kaua’i nearly lost its pig-farming industry, and didn’t even know it.
If a National Pork Producers Council resolution banning the feeding of food waste to pigs had not been defeated earlier this year, its passage would have signaled an end to most hog farms on Kaua’i, according to representatives of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and Hawaii Pork Industry Association.
“Oh, people wouldn’t survive, couldn’t keep farming,” if the resolution had passed, said Valerie Kaneshiro, of M & H Kaneshiro Farms, Inc.
She is secretary of the Hawaii Pork Industry Association, and said that many of the smaller pig farmers on Kaua’i (commercial and non-commercial) use only food waste to feed their pigs.
And since the cost of grain to feed pigs is higher here than on O’ahu, a ban on using food waste to feed pigs here would have meant the end to many pig-farming operations on the island, Kaneshiro explained.
Anxious to protect the U.S. livestock industry from the threat of food-and-mouth disease, national pork-industry representatives proposed the resolution at a national pork-industry forum earlier this year.
This came on the heels of last year’s European outbreak of the disease, which resulted when infected meat scraps illegally imported from China were fed raw to swine.
“Disease can be spread in food waste,” Kaneshiro said. “Food waste needs to be cooked,” and the state Department of Agriculture’s inspectors make sure food waste fed to pigs is cooked correctly, she added.
Based on state Department of Agriculture estimates of places the food-waste inspection people visit periodically, there are around 80 pig farmers on the island.
At the national meeting, the efforts of Ron McKeehan of Ahualoa Hog Farm in Honoka’a on the Big Island gained support from farmers in other states to defeat the resolution, according to a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.
McKeehan’s testimony pointed out that stringent levels of inspections of food waste cooking in the United States make the resolution unnecessary, Further, fully half of all pork producers in Hawai’i use some food waste in their feeding programs, and consider it a valuable source of nutrients for their animals, he added.
On O’ahu, a city and county ordinance prohibits the disposal of food waste in landfills, which forces hotels, schools and restaurants to recycle it. Using that waste to feed pigs effectively helps keep tons of waste out of landfills, which has environmental benefits, he said.
After learning of the proposed ban, McKeehan enlisted the help of his wife, Daphne, and Dr. Halina Zaleski, swine specialist with the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Zaleski and Daphne McKeehan gathered supporting data overnight, and e-mailed it to Ron McKeehan, who was at the convention in Denver, and made his persuasive argument against the resolution.
On Kaua’i, recycling food waste from restaurants helps the restaurants get rid of those leftovers, and allows farmers a cheap source of feed for their animals.
For more information on the Hawaii Pork Industry Association, please call Kaneshiro, 742-1308.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).