Feeding pigs 40 years ago

In 1986 I was told by a friend to meet Fred Madsen. Trained as a biochemist, he somehow started giving nutritional consultation to zoos, which led him into formulating diets for pigs.

He was talking about two things that nobody else in the pig business was even thinking about: feeding the animal at the cellular level and feeding for a healthy gut. Now keep in mind that this was in the early days of building swine diets with the “least cost” mentality and Madsen was talking about spending the correct amount on basic core nutrition and how you will then spend less from a health standpoint. Only 30 years later and the human world is starting to see how that might be beneficial for two-legged creatures as well.

For the past 40 years the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been imposing dietary guidelines that have ushered in accelerated chronic disease. In fact, it is clear to see that the dietary committee has been stacked with folks that have the goal of eliminating the very food items that promote a healthy immune system, and I am talking about milk, meat and eggs.

This is not new science. Back in 1940, the Committee on Food and Nutrition recommended the addition of thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and iron to flour and we all know that milk is fortified with vitamin D to eliminate rickets. For the record, they tell us that 80% of the kids born in places like Boston in the early 1900s had rickets, a softening and weakening of the bones.

One other area of basic nutrition today that is getting wide appeal is zinc. Some remedies come with a degree of controversy, but there is no doubt that zinc is vital to arming the immune system with all the fighting power possible. As a quick review, the food items that are highest in available zinc are meat from sheep, cows, chickens and pigs. Why are we not shouting this at the top of our lungs?

As a side note, it is widely recognized that vegetables are not even a good source of zinc and other trace minerals that are vital to the immune system. So for those who choose to be vegan or even vegetarian, a daily healthy dose of trace mineral supplementation is required. I have seen some reports indicating that 50% of them will struggle if the immune system is called to engage.

At the end of the day it is quite disheartening that the very same concepts we used 40 years ago in feeding our pigs are really just now being exposed to the general public as important healthy lifestyles strategies. It is our golden window of opportunity to tell the world how important a balanced diet is—a balanced diet that contains a daily dose of animal products.

It’s time we start feeding the people with as much accurate science and care as we’ve been using to feed our livestock. It’s also time to stop relying on our commodity organizations to promote the benefits of our animal products from milk to meat and eggs and so much more. If knowing where your food comes from, how it is cared for and who produces it is so appealing to consumers, then they should be happy to learn that the foods we raise will also help save their lives. Let’s get that message out there.

Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at [email protected].