Food Dialogues Blog

Who we are, how we work, and why we love what we do.

Pig Farmers Make the Most of Natural Resources to Reduce Food Loss

At Schwab Family Farm, my family is proud to be in the business of raising food for people all around the world. We have respect for our land and pigs, so it is important we make the most of the resources we have. Food security is a passion of mine, and I believe it’s important to limit food waste and conserve our natural resources. We want to ensure farming continues for future generations and sustain our productivity for a growing population.

Limiting food loss starts on the farm. We work with our veterinarian to give the best animal care, so more pigs remain healthy and make it to market. This includes housing our pigs in barns and providing them with the proper space, keeping their safety and comfort top of mind. We monitor their health, food and water intake daily. Automatic feed and water systems provide pigs with the proper diet which limits waste. We also work with local farmers who grow their crops sustainability to be used as feed for our pigs. They make it a priority to manage their nutrients closely to support soil health.

We want to make sure the resources required in pork production are used as efficiently as possible, with little or no waste. Pork production contributes only one-third of one percent (0.33 percent) of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, every pound of pork produced in the United States today has a smaller carbon footprint than it used to have 20 years ago, due to improved production methods. Some of those practices include:

  • Improved feeding programs developed by nutritionists that carefully match swine diets to the nutrition needs of the pigs, based on their sex, age and stage of growth. This ensures the pig’s health and welfare without overfeeding nutrients that end up in the manure.
  • Using manure as a natural fertilizing agent to replace or offset the use of commercial fertilizers. This not only helps reduce the energy use associated with making the fertilizers, but also helps build the carbon content and moisture-holding capacity of soils.
  • Improved manure management and application practices. We follow carefully developed manure management plans. It matches the manure nutrient applied to the nutrient needs of the crops being grown. Incorporating the manure nutrients during application guards against runoff that could impact water quality.

Beyond the farm, we are working with the USDA and food organizations to secure food access for those in need and limit food waste for others. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, by the year 2050, our world population will increase to 9.3 billion people. This will require farmers to raise substantially more food than they do now to feed those people. Farmers must continue to grow and raise more with less without compromising the health of our land and our animals.

While overall pork production has almost doubled since 1959, farmers are using 41 percent less water, 78 percent less land, and have reduced their carbon footprint by 35 percent according to the National Pork Board. An Iowa State University study also shows that pig farmers use 80 percent less energy per pig raised today than they did in the 1970s. All of these improvements allow us to provide more quality pork that is raised safer, leaner and more nutritious than ever before. We always look for ways to provide healthier food while enhancing the care of our animals and protecting the environment. We listen to today’s consumers and work hard every day to become ever better at what we do.

Lauren Schwab works on her 1200-sow breed-to-wean family pig farm in Butler County, Ohio, where they raise 30,000 pigs annually. As the farrowing house manager, she is a week one specialist to ensure all piglets get off to the best start. As a millennial farmer and blogger, Lauren connects with young adults and young women who care about their food, the environment and their careers. She serves as one of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s Faces of Farming & Ranching, and her blog is farmgirlwithcurls.com.

All opinions expressed are the writer’s own. Funded by one or more checkoff programs.