Hogging the Slops

Trash-eating pigs: Not all garbage is created equal

Don Agresti has been feeding garbage to his hogs for years. Nobody seemed to mind until the industrial chemical melamine, blamed for the deaths of 13 cats and one dog, crept into his hogs' food. Agresti's 5,000 hogs eat mostly "salvage," meaning he gets the food free from food canneries, bakeries, food processing facilities, and, yes, pet food manufacturers, who have unsalable product or food waste.

For small players such as Agresti's six-employee American Hog Farm in Ceres, Calif., relying on salvage feed to cut costs is common practice. "If the government stopped letting us use salvage feed, we would just quit," says Agresti, a lifelong hog farmer. "We wouldn't be able to afford to raise the animals." Some 75% of the cost of raising a hog goes to feed.

Although the pet food scandal put an unwelcome spotlight on his farm, Agresti doesn't plan to stop using salvage feed, and he's currently waiting for compensation from the feds, who quarantined his hogs from Apr. 19 to May 15. His take on the Food & Drug Administration, which is trying to put the kibosh on unsafe food for both pigs and people? Agresti says coolly: "The monkey's on their back now."

By Amy S. Choi

Edited by Jeremy Quittner

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