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Are producers really breeding giant pigs in China?

Reports of Chinese hog producers breeding pigs the size of polar bears have emerged, but are the reports true, and what are the implications for breeding pigs so big?

8 October 2019, at 2:00pm

With African swine fever wreaking havoc in China's pig industry, it is no surprise that those who can still afford to be in production are now pushing for higher productivity than ever before. Surviving herds are reaching higher market values as demand far outweighs what China's pig industry can currently produce. In order to meet consumer demand, China's global imports have increased significantly, but this appears to be merely scratching the surface of the 10 to 15 million tonne supply shortfall predicted by experts.

One proposed solution, embraced by producer Pang Cong in the southern Chinese province of Guangxi, is to breed giant pigs capable of producing 110 to 130 kilos of meat and fetching over 10,000 yuan ($1,399) at slaughter. Currently Pang Cong is rearing pigs to weights of around 500kg (1,102 pounds) but he has plans to rear bigger animals, comparable in size and weight to a polar bear.

According to reports from Bloomberg, it is not just smaller producers who are investing in higher finishing weights: Wens Foodstuffs Group Co, Cofco Meat Holdings Ltd. and Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co. have all confirmed that they are selectively breeding to increase the average weight of their pigs.

This is not the first time giant swine have hit the headlines, but many of those animals growing to extreme weights have met untimely endings through a number of health complications. Broken legs and a general lack of mobility are two previously observed issues in these morbidly obese animals, and both are important welfare concerns.

With an estimated 250 to 300 million pigs slaughtered in China in the last 12 months, many producers are looking to quickly minimise their losses and it may not be long before these enormous animals are a common product of coping with market pressures in modern-day pig farming.