PIGS IN CHINA

African Swine Fever is playing havoc in China's pork industry.  The first case occurred Aug. 3 and by Jan. 25 they've had 104 outbreaks and culled (you know what that means) 916,000 pigs.

 As I've been wont to do numerous times in these posts, I want us to stop just for a moment to contemplate the numbers.  We read over 916,000 pigs without even a pause.  Let's stop and consider.  Let's assume these pigs are all size ranges; some small, some nearly ready for slaughter.  So we'll pick a lower end average of 100 pounds.  If we multiply the culled (that's euphemistically destroyed, killed, thrown away, incinerated) by 100 pounds, that's 91,610,000 pounds. 

 When you consider that a tractor trailer carries about 50,000 pounds, that comes out to 1,832 tractor trailer loads.  Now imagine that an average Wal-Mart parking lot  can handle 500 cars or 100 tractor trailers.  Let's see, that would be 18 Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lots full of 18-wheelers.  If each of those parking lots is roughly 5 acres (an acre is the size of a football field) that's 90 football fields full of tractor trailers.

 How about this for a perspective.  The average tractor trailer is 2205 cubic feet and the average home chest freezer is 15 cubic feet.  So it takes 147 average household freezers to hold a tractor trailer load of stuff.  Multiply that by the 1,832 tractor trailers, and you need 269,304 average household chest freezers to hold it all.  Now stop and think about that--how many homes have a chest freezer?  How big a city would it take to have that many chest freezers?  If 20 percent of households have a chest freezer, it would take a city of nearly a million and a half people to have the capacity to hold that much pork.

 Okay, thanks for indulging me this imaginative foray into magnitude.  I hope I've made my case:  this glib little number of 916,000 pigs is a lot.  This represents a massive waste in the global food system.  Russia has been fighting ASF now for 11 years and rules put in place there have resulted in half of the small pork producers going out of business.  Large industrial pork farms have picked up all that slack.  The same procedures now threaten the small Chinese cottage pork producers.

 What gets the blame for this problem?  First, wild boars.  Bio-security measures like perimeter fencing, worker sterilization (shower in, shower out) and other draconian measures eliminate smaller producers.  No vaccine exists to counteract the virus. Another alleged culprit is feeding human food waste to pigs.

 Small farmers in Romania, Poland, Belgium and Estonia accuse government agents of corruption and prejudicial action against them while giving free passes to large corporate operations.  Sound familiar?

 In all my farming experience, I have never seen livestock sickness invade healthy animals.  Every sickness we've ever had on our farm is a result of poor nutrition, mismanagement, stress, unsanitary conditions or poor breeding.  Nature never sprinkles foo-foo dust to make things sick.

 As the news of these massive incineration pits and the plight of the smallholders filters out into our media outlets, be assured that you and I are not hearing the truth; we're not hearing the real story.  And the cure will not be a real cure any more than the alleged culprit is the real culprit.  Ecological balance--including harvesting wild pigs--will restore health and vitality.  For the record, small farmers are as guilty of poor pork husbandry as are large industrial outfits.  This is not about scale; it's about honoring nature's rules.  Be assured that any time wildlife becomes the disease bogeyman, the real culprit lies elsewhere.

 Do you think we're eradicating diseases or encouraging diseases?