Farmers and agricultural colleges have long experimented with tweaking livestock feed to improve weight-gain and animal health. Farm animals need help growing, especially in feedlots where illness spreads quickly because the animals are crammed into an unnatural habitat and fed an unnatural diet. In conventional American agriculture, antibiotics and/or hormones are routine, but I have recently heard about a couple exceptional feeds being used on small farms:
On a recent trip to Japan, I met a pig farmer who has a remarkably innovative system of feeding the pigs a fermented grain, probiotic-rich diet and thereby avoiding administration of antibiotics, even though they are raised in confinement. Get it? Probiotics instead of antibiotics. Surprisingly, animal welfare had nothing to do with his decision-making, he didn’t even know that we have a major antibiotics-in-feed problem in the states. He just does it because it makes the fat whiter and gives the pork a better smell. The fermented grain feed gives the meat more marketable qualities – but as a result, he also has healthier pigs without antibiotics – a surprise win-win.
Of course, that example isn’t nearly as amusing as BB Ranch’s pot-fed pigs, which you can read about over at the Seattle Met blog. Pigs have long consumed the leavings of agricultural production – but I bet none have enjoyed their feed as much as these pigs, who dine on the stems, leaves and root bulbs leftover from a local medical marijuana co-op. Weed supposedly provides healthy fiber to the pigs and a more savory flavor to the meat. Farmers throughout the world are focused on getting their livestock to gain weight quick. There must be few feeds out there that give livestock the munchies like weed.
As far as weight-gain supplements go, I’ll take probiotic-fed or ganja-fed over zilmax-fed any day of the week. Or every day.