On Nov. 1, Oklahoma will join nearly half the country as the practice of garbage feeding or swill feeding to pigs will no longer be allowed. While the Oklahoma Pork Council had been in discussion with the state veterinarian on getting legislation like this passed for the last two to three years, Roy Lee Lindsey Jr., says the policy took priority this year as foreign threats of African swine fever loom.
“It’s not a new issue. I think it just got new focus when we started thinking about ASF and how ASF spreads,” says the executive director of the Oklahoma Pork Council. “We spent a little extra time on it this year to get it addressed and to get just one more thing out of the way so that it’s not something we have to worry about, if we have a problem.”
Garbage feeding, which can spread diseases if contaminated meat products are fed to pigs, has been responsible for past outbreaks around the world including ASF, foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever. The Swine Health Protection Act allows each state to determine whether garbage feeding is allowed within their state.
Backed by Oklahoma’s pork producers, state veterinarian and the state department of agriculture, the legislation was drafted by Toni Hasenbeck, a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from District 65 and a familiar face in the Oklahoma pork industry scene. Hasenbeck, who grew up showing pigs in the state, is the daughter of auctioneer Butch Young, a member of the Oklahoma Pork Council Hall of Fame and is married to veterinarian Hank Hasenbeck.
“As we began to talk on this issue, she was the perfect legislator to carry this issue for us, both from her own personal experience as well as being able to call on her husband and get the science behind disease prevention, etc.,” Lindsey says.
Another area that was key in getting the bill passed, Lindsey says, was the fact that no producer in the state was actively engaged in garbage feeding. If a state allows garbage feeding, each producer must obtain a license before feeding any human food waste to their pigs. The licensing process requires the pig producer to demonstrate appropriate cooking and handling of garbage feed for swine.
“We had several permit holders out there, but there was no one that was actively participating,” Lindsey says. “When we started talking about ASF and the risks of transmitting disease, and we recognized that we didn’t have anybody that was actively doing this. It became apparent to all of us that now was the time to just go ahead and do away with the process.”
With no one actively practicing garbage feeding, that also helped to ease legislators’ concerns regarding if the ban would displace any producers in business.
“If you’re going to make a fundamental change in how somebody does something and how do we minimize that impact, and in this case, we didn’t have those impacts,” Lindsey says. “It made the passage of the legislation a whole lot easier.”
According to Joelle R. Hayden, public affairs specialist with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Oklahoma is now the 23rd state to ban garbage feeding. Other states include Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Vermont and Wisconsin.
With foreign animal disease concerns in mind, Lindsey says other states may want to go back and see if their permits are being actively used or if there is an opportunity to start to weed the practice out altogether.
“Maybe you look at a system that says we have four permits out today. We’re going to grandfather those four in and we’re never going to issue any more,” Lindsey says. “There’s a whole lot of things you could do from a legislative, public policy standpoint that would let you restrict the use of feeding plate waste down the road, and I think that we all should be looking at what those pieces are.”