Will concern for what pigs eat impact sales?

Dive Brief:

  • A Cargill study, reported this month in Food Manufacturing, said that at least 32% of millennials care about the diets pigs are fed, and 42% of them feel it isn't particularly healthy.

  • This is a humane issue for consumers and a practical one for Cargill, which spends considerable time and resources to ensure what it feeds swine not only improves their growth rates but also considers the likes of gut health.

  • While almost all of the people spoken to for the survey eat pork products, there was a lot they didn't know about the way it was raised. Only 10% had an accurate idea of how much feed a pig needs to get to market weight, and more than a third of millennials think it currently takes more land and water to raise pigs today than 50 years ago. (It actually takes less.)

Dive Insight:

The public – millennials or otherwise – really doesn't know what's involved in raising pigs. And sadly, pigs have always had a bad reputation as mud-wollowing critters with little concern for their own well being. The truth is more complicated, according to Barry Estabrook, author of the 2015 book “Pig Tales, An Omnivore's Quest for Sustainable Meat.”

In a 2015 interview with NPR, Estabrook shared some horror stories about what “industrial pigs” are fed, how they're housed, how some 8 to 10% of them die from their stressful environment, and how antibiotics included in their diet negatively impact those drugs' effectiveness in humans.

Ultimately, government may need have to legislate solutions to problems with industrial pig farm pollution in areas like Des Moines, IA, Estabrook said. But the ramifications of this study — and other popular food animal welfare movements — show that knowledgeable consumers may vote with their wallets, choosing meat options that are better for both the environment and the animals.

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Filed Under: Meat / Protein