In 2020 268 million American’s ate bacon. Each American consumed an average (per capita) of 66.18 pounds of pork. In 2021 there were 74.77 million pigs in the United States, and that number continues to grow as more and more people turn to pork as a cheap source of protein. Commercial pig farming is an enormous business – but how to effectively dispose of the pig waste from the pig farms continues to be a source of concern – and in some communities, outrage. So what are the options that are available?
Slurry from pig farms is produced in truly enormous quantities. The traditional way to deal with that raw slurry is to use it as fertilizer. It is tremendously effective when used in this manner. However, as the sheer volume of raw slurry has increased pig farmers are left with a problem – the market for fertilizer is simply not able to absorb the amount of slurry available.
Innovative waste management strategies are required. The solution is to treat the raw slurry at the site where it is produced. Ideally, the result is a product that provides added value. Two different approaches are taken. The first is an advanced filtration system and the second is by using a screw press. Both of these approaches provide a product that has a variety of advantages over traditional raw slurry.
The first of these advantages is a more efficient use of storage space. By separating out the components, primarily solids and water, less storage space is required and the transport of the slurry becomes far more cost-effective. For instance, an efficient screw press will separate around 80 percent of the dry matter and 85 percent of the phosphate from the untreated slurry. Both solid matter and phosphate can be brought to market at a fraction of the cost traditionally associated with transporting raw slurry.
There are also various options when it comes to filtration. An efficient disposal system for pig manure can provide liquid nutrient concentrate which can be sued as fertilizer. Reverse osmosis systems can provide that concentrate as well as clean water which can be employed for irrigation, or discharged into fresh waterways.
However there is also a third option that is being explored in the European Union – and that is to use the enormous amount of waste that is generated by piggeries as a source of biogas. Given that the waste is (in itself) tremendously harmful to the environment this is an option that deserves serious study. There is also the consideration that the efficient use of biogas also results in the production of struvite, naturally present in pig manure. This compound contains phosphorous and nitrogen which makes it ideal for use as an agricultural fertilizer.
It is clear that there are a variety of different approaches that can be taken to deal with pig waste. Each of these can reduce the impact of waste on the environment – as well as increasing profits for farmers and reducing their costs. It is a case of everybody wins – it is up to the individual farmer to decide which approach is most beneficial to their operation.
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