The following excerpt from "Boss Hog's System" (April 3, 98 at
www.wshu.org/duesing) gives an example of the nitrogen nonsense that Avery
says we can't run organically. I think he is right. Nitrogen's use on
farms in the mid west damages soil and water from there to the Gulf of
Mexico. Enormous excesses of nitrogen (and other expensively applied
nutrients) from animal wastes in North Carolina (or Utah) damage soil,
water and communities there. And then some of what's left in the animal
ends up passing through the sewage plant into waterways in New England or
even, with export subsidies, in Russia.
I'm with Greg on pasture. However, in our more urbanized area there are
other places to graze. The produce, hot and salad-bar wastes from a local,
vegetarian health food store have provided much of the feed for our pigs
for a decade or so. The meat is tasty enough that customers happily pay
$100 for one of our hams. (Sure beats those $30 hogs I heard about!)
The recycling coordinator at Yale told me recently that his school grinds
up over 200 tons of food waste each year for disposal into New Haven's
sewage plant in order to avoid the more expensive incinerator tipping fees.
This is in additon to the ton per week that is captured for feeding to
pigs. We could feed a lot of pigs with the waste from just that one school.
Until we change our thinking from linear to cyclical we probably can't
really do anything sustainably.
In North Carolina "Pigs are raised in groups of several thousand in long,
tin-roofed sheds. These are surrounded by lagoons and grassy fields which
are the current technology for dealing with the tremendous volumes of hog
wastes flushed from the sheds with water. Although there are several large
producers active in the area, Mr. Murphy runs the biggest operation. He
owns some of the pig houses, and contracts with small farmers to raise
other hogs for him. As what's called an "integrator," he provides the
pigs, feed, medications, and advice. The farmer provides labor and waste
disposal and, in theory, makes enough money to pay for the fancy buildings
and his services.
The pigs are raised in three different places. Sows give birth and nurse
for just 17 days. The prematurely-weaned piglets are raised on another
so-called "farm" for several months before being shipped off to finishing
houses, some of which are in Illinois. In five-to-six months, the pigs are
slaughtered, and their meat, with or without further processing, is shipped
all over the globe.
Although some of the corn and soybeans the pigs eat is grown in North
Carolina, there is no way the state can produce all the needed feed, so
long trains of hopper cars bring corn and soybean meal from Indiana,
Illinois and other Midwestern states. There, increasingly-expensive,
high-tech seeds, large tractors, energy-intensive chemical fertilizers and
pesticides produce crops that are bought, shipped and sold by large global
After the pigs have eaten, much of the feed's nitrogen and phosphorus,
which farmers applied as fertilizer in the Midwest, is left in North
Carolina in the hogs' feces and urine. After sitting in a lagoon, these
wastes are sprayed on the land. In theory, plants absorb these nutrients.
In practice, some lagoons leak into the region's sandy soils. The
sprayed-on effluent sometimes runs off into ditches and streams, and
eventually finds its way to rivers and estuaries along the Carolina coast.
These wastes have been connected with outbreaks of the severely-toxic
microscopic organism, Pfiesteria. Open, bleeding sores on fish, and
cognitive dysfunction, memory loss, nervous and immune systems damage in
humans are associated with the presence of Pfiesteria."
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