Hog Wild! Climate change to make pigs skinnier (busted)

From the National Post and the “climate change, is there anything it can’t do?” department comes this porkie:

Climate change is making pigs skinnier, which could mean more expensive pork

A new report claims higher temperatures mean hogs produce less protein, which could result in pricier pork

Pork is the most widely consumed animal protein in the world. Representing more than 36 per cent of global meat-eating, a hit to production could have devastating effects. As a new Scientific American report suggests, a warming planet may result in skinnier pigs that produce less meat. The potential outcome: a future where pork is scarce and strips of bacon will cost you dearly.

The National Pork Board in the U.S. has been monitoring the effect of high temperatures on pigs since 2013, according to Scientific American, due to the possible consequences for a US$20 billion industry.

Swine are particularly vulnerable to hot weather: they wallow in cool mud or water because their sweat glands don’t effectively regulate body temperature. Studies have shown that when the animals are exposed to temperatures in excess of 25 degrees Celsius, they produce less protein, with the added drawback of decreased fertility.

“And the impact is not limited to one generation — if a pregnant sow suffers heat stress, she will birth fewer babies, which will grow slower, store less protein and have fewer and lower-quality eggs and sperm compared with pigs born to mothers raised at cooler temperatures,” Scientific American reports.

Previous studies have identified climate change as a threat to livestock in general as rising temperatures affect feed quality, availability of water and biodiversity. By 2050, worldwide demand for livestock products is anticipated to double, according to a 2017 study by Michigan State University.

Caught in a vicious meaty circle, climate change will influence livestock production and thus food security. And the fallout of animal farming – deforestation and feed production – in turn contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Agricultural scientists say pork could get more expensive in a warmer and more humid world because raising pigs will require more food, energy, water and labour to meet the protein requirements of a growing human population,” Scientific American reports, adding that cooling technologies and a return to indigenous breeds may help mitigate the threat to the industry.

Source: https://nationalpost.com/life/food/climate-change-is-making-pigs-skinnier-which-could-mean-more-expensive-pork

Meanwhile, in the real world, as the Earth warms over the last 50 years…. we see this:

Source: Our World in Data

81 thoughts on “Hog Wild! Climate change to make pigs skinnier (busted)

  1. So, my question: “Is a skinny pig replacing the starving polar bear as the iconic image of climate doom?”

    A related question: “What’s the global average weight of a pig? “

  2. Thanks for this article, and especially those photographs – gave me the best laugh of the day!
    I wonder if that slimming effect is working on Big Al as global temperatures continue to boar, I mean soar?
    Before and after photos for him would be instructive too.

    • They referenced using indeginous breeds as a response to warming. I would dearly love to see a pig farmer raise marauding feral hogs!

      • Razorbacks are some of the consarndest critters you ever met. Safer to jump in the river with the Gators, I recon.

  3. If the price of pork goes up, less will be purchased and consumed. Fewer pigs, less “fallout of animal farming – deforestation and feed production.”

    Problem solved.

  4. Then farmers will move %north or higher in elevation. *Porklem solved.

    %farmers down under try south

  5. What’s the difference between a climate alarmist and a pig? — None, they are both subject to being roasted.

    Suggestion: Change the name of the “Greenhouse Theory” to the “Slaughterhouse Theory”, in order to push the comparison between CO2 and lard — CO2 is like a layer of lard that fries humanity.

    Sorry, I’m incapable of contributing anything remotely serious on this one.

  6. So, by that theory, pigs raised in Pennsylvania are going to be skinnier than ones raised in Georgia. That should be pretty easy to measure and confirm.


  7. Fortunately, as the Rutgers study summarized on WUWT earlier today shows, the eastern 2/3 of the US, where nearly all pigs are raised, has been cooler of late.

  8. “…because raising pigs will require more food, energy, water and labour to meet the protein requirements of a growing human population…”

    That ignores the tremendous genetic gains made over the last 2 to 3 decades. Pigs have been selected and bred to increase in growth rate with a herd improvement of about 10 grams/day each year … ie, pigs today grow on average 200 grams/day faster than they did in 1998. (Now about 780 grams/day = 120 kg liveweight at 20 weeks of age). With that comes improved efficiency. as they are also selected and bred for improved feed efficiency: the kgs of feed needed for 1 kg of growth. That has improved from 2.8 kg of feed per kg of gain to 2.3. Further gains come from improved reproductive efficiency.

    When I first heard of these ‘year on year’ genetic gains in the 1990s I thought to myself, “Well, that can’t go on forever”.
    But it has and is recently further accelerating with the advent of affordable genetic testing, enabling the use of gene markers to accurately select for the required traits.

    Gains in poultry and cattle and sheep have been similarly spectacular, and that too will continue and accelerate further.

    There may be a ceiling there somewhere, but we can’t see it yet.

    (Incidentally, the weight chart shown in the article reflects the improved growth rates, but more so the tendency to slaughter at heavier weights due to that improved growth rate).

    [The mods wonder if that indicates we need a Moore’s Law for Pigs. Or just One Moore’s Pig Law? But then would be two Moore’s Laws – which is one more than one Moore’s Law. .mod]

  9. Climate Science is getting cloudier all the time. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to take them cirrusly.

  10. Surely all this proves is that thanks to global warming the now thinner pigs will also become denser and therefore tougher to eat. Dentists everywhere should rejoice.
    Will this apply to other animals? I feel we should be told.

  11. “Swine are particularly vulnerable to hot weather:”

    Geez, the pigs I saw in the South East Pacific and Thailand, where it is like really hot and humid, have never heard of this. And the pigs were doing exceptionally fine there. That they are particularly vulnerable to hot weather I don’t dispute…I was having a whale of time getting by too. As long as they have mud to wallow in, and have a proper diet and clean water, they seem to just thrive whatever the temperature is. And global warming is not accelerating temps at the equator anyway, it is just hot there all the time and pork is their principal meat market. Don’t tell the pigs this, or they will be wanting A/C.

  12. Don’t tell the feral pigs where I live in Queensland Australia. I live next to a National Park, in the Tropics. Every 1 to 2 years they bring in shooters to cut the numbers.

  13. Pigs and mathematics go back years.
    About 1970 there was a research paper claiming that the optimum economic feed weight for raising pigs was proporktional to A to the power of 0.8, where A is the weight of food chosen by pigs from an unlimited supply.
    Looking at a cross section of late teenage girls of today, I hope they are still learning mathematics so they can figure this. You reap what, you sows? Geoff

  14. I get the idea these researchers don’t have any clue about pigs.

    They chose a global animal used for food and bollixed up their “less protein” fakery.


    ” At present, the (really) assumed potential of fecundity is 15.0 piglets born alive, 2.4 litters/year, <10 % losses and 32.5 piglets per sow/year (compared to current data of 11.1, 2.26, 13.8 and 21.5, respectively)"

    A problem with pigs is keeping that fecundity under control. A lot of semi-tropical areas have serious feral pig problems.

    Well, at least the sow fecundity study was worth the funds spent, unlike the climate alarm fear mongering.

  15. Will pigs replace Stevenson Screens? Do they have to be whitewashed regularly? And weighed twice a day to get an average?

  16. Just as farming can move to cooler environments if local temps increase, ranchers can do the same thing. In fact it is probably easier for a pig farmer to move his operation than it is for a corn farmer.

    And I know it is anecdotal evidence, but I have seen more and larger feral pigs in the southern US than in the northern US.

  17. Actually pigs are among the most eurytopic of animals. They avoid glaciers, tundra and extreme desert but do well almost everywhere else. For example on the Gangetic plain in India with summer temperatures regularly >50 C. As well as southern Iraq, northern Australia and southern Arizona to take a few other areas not exactly noted for cool climate.

  18. Anthony:

    Looking your real-world graph of pig meat yields, it sure seems that meat yield per pig correlates with per-capita CO2 emissions. Funny that.

  19. When I worked in Nigeria in the mid 1960s there was a Danish tech aid agricultural school at Vom, near Jos in central northern Nigeria that sold their very fine farm products cheaply at a farm store. The pigs they raised were enormous (5-6deg N latitude). The bacon was the best I’ve ever eaten and they sold milk from their dairy and beautiful grapefruit. I joined the Jos horticultural club (largely British) . Members even grew apples and other exotics(!). I say BS on the pigs getting smaller. BTW, I raised my big family on a farm and 4a8sed, am9ng other things, fine pigs in temperatures from -20C to 35C. Do they consult people who know anything or is this all linear, a priori, how-hard-can-it-be thinking.

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