So why would one want to raise pigs in their farm? There may be various reasons, here we have listed the common benefits to raising your very own pigs.
- Pig products
Each pig provides for numerous products and on-farm processing can provide for a wide range of products. The main commodity of pig production is pork. Pork represents high value animal protein and is the most consumed meat in the world.
As a result of the great variability between pig breeds, carcasses have differing characteristics ranging from high lean meat percentages (as desired in many Western societies) to high intramuscular fat and back fat contents (as often appreciated in more traditional societies).
Slaughtered pork that is not destined for immediate marketing, processing and consumption requires a functioning cold chain to avert
Besides traditional meat cuts found locally, many other pig products find their way into the food chain. These include pig fat, brain, feet, ears, blood and organs (for example, liver and stomach).
Commonly other pig by-products are used for many and various purposes. For example, intestines for sausage casings, bone collagen is used in the food processing and cosmetic industry, hairs are used for brushes, etc.
Pork processing can lead to a great variety of products meeting the demand of specific consumption patterns. The number of processed products can be extensive, ranging from simple salted and sun dried pork, to cured sausages to smoked ham.
Mainstream processed pork products are commonly accompanied by some local specialties that may include more traditional recipes and herbs or spices. Pork can be processed on-farm provided that appropriate training has been given, especially in terms of food hygiene and safety.
- Pigs at household level
At household level pig production provides access to animal protein for farm families, contributing to an improved diet for family members.
Pork with its beneficial components like essential amino acids, vitamins and iron, facilitates a balanced nutrition which is especially important for young children in food insecure regions. On-farm processing of pork can produce products with improved storage characteristics, enabling meat consumption throughout the year regardless of when slaughter occurs.
In many societies women are traditionally responsible for raising, feeding and caring for animals. Commonly when pigs are sold, men get involved, often curtailing women’s access to income. The development of a smallholder pig sector thus needs to consider gender issues and this can be supported by extension services and appropriate training.
Pigs can contribute positively to the empowerment of women and enhance their equal participation in local markets. It can give women a better say in family matters, allow for their own income to be earned and in case of widowhood or abandonment can provide a safety net. It can also give women a greater role in their local communities. Activities in smallscale pig production often require additional labour. Family members participate in the enterprise and this provides more employment opportunities for the farm family.
The level of technical skills and physical strength needed to succeed in small-scale production are minimal and routines required can easily be understood. Tasks can be split among all family members including people suffering from disabilities or suffering from illnesses such as HIV/AIDS. Pig management does not commonly involve excessive labour.
On-farm processing enables new skills and knowledge to be learnt and provides for more varied products to be sold and further employment opportunities for the farm family.
Women that are involved in the raising of pigs can also get involved in processing of pork giving them yet another source of income deriving from pig enterprises. Kitchen processing is easy to set up, has very few start-up costs and can be a first step towards a more formalized operation where appropriate equipment is bought and a room in the farm household or a small building on the farm is devoted to processing operations. However before any such progress is made there has to be a corresponding market demand and importantly sales to make such investments feasible.
In poor rural but also peri-urban areas, pig production often functions as a banking system where the animal is a source of wealth that can be accessed when additional income is needed. This might be the case when school fees need to be paid, household members seek medical assistance or cash is needed for further investments. In this regard, pigs represent an attractive intermediate between poultry production, which can be initiated with very little money and the more long term oriented cattle production option requiring far higher cash outlays.