New Year, New Trend? Raising Pigs with Chinese Characteristics

New Year, New Trend? Raising Pigs with Chinese Characteristics

Out with, or back to, the old?

“High-tech TCM green pork” may be one of the new fashions in Chinese agriculture, a marriage between traditional Chinese culture and advanced technology that serves public health and environmental sustainability. The company taking the lead is ZOBO Natural Biotechnology Co., Ltd. located in the city of Shenzhen in southern China which is, it says, “dedicated to pursuing the creativity of biotechnology highly focused on compound feed additives and veterinary medicine manufactured by natural herbs (which have no pesticide residues).” “Green, Safety, Health” is the tagline on the ZOBO website. Its products are, the company claims, able to prevent and cure animal diseases, accelerate growth, improve yields, and detoxify and excrete toxic substances.

ZOBO has a 12,600 mu (approximately 840 hectare) demonstration farm in Jiangxi province, in southeast China, where pig farming is a huge business and known to pollute the environment (Jiangxi is one of the places where Brighter Green’s documentary, “What’s for Dinner?”, exploring increased meat consumption and more intensive animal agriculture in China was filmed). The company’s initial investment amounts to 500 million yuan (approximately $75 million) and it has plans to produce one million pigs a year, a level of production considered large-scale and intensive in China. The demonstration farm now has around 100,000 pigs, representing 10,000 different breeds – all imported from Denmark at a cost of over 20,000 yuan each (approximately $3,000). “We do not use any antibiotics or vaccines. We use traditional Chinese veterinary medicine to control diseases, and fermentation beds to treat pig wastes. It saves a huge amount of water and human labor,” says Mr. Chong, assistant to the general manager of ZOBO.“Pig waste processed by microorganisms in the fermentation beds can be converted to high-quality manure.” He continues: “We’re able to achieve ‘0 disease, 0 residue, high quality, and high throughput’.” The company’s pork will enter the Hong Kong market in March 2011, for sale to Hong Kong consumers.

I researched TCM in pig farming and was interested to find other initiatives. For example, a CCTV (China Central Television) program special featured a pig farmer in Hunan, another province with a number of highly polluting pig farms, who made a fortune out of TCM pigs. However, the pig farmer takes a different approach to that of ZOBO. He employs no fancy high technology. Instead, he grows TCM plants on his farm and feeds his pigs with the them. The benefits are huge, as he sees it: “The plants can purify the air; pigs fed on TCM plants have much stronger immune system; the smell of the plants can disperse insects.” Heavily stricken by blue ear disease in 2006, which sickened and killed hundreds of thousands of pigs across China, the pig farm is now highly profitable.

Using TCM in pig farming is especially interesting given the backdrop of the decline of TCM to treat humans in China. Is it a fad, a magical remedy, or something else? I’ll follow up on this story in 2011. In the meantime, happy New Year.

Photo courtesy Xie Zheng