China builds ‘pig hotels’ to contain swine fever

These thirteen-storey buildings are the subject of attention worthy of a high-security laboratory.

In Jiaxing, in eastern China, a huge thirteen-story building rises above the houses. Monitored by an army of cameras and subjected to draconian access controls, this gigantic complex houses a herd of 10,000 pigs.

In recent years, these “pig hotels” have emerged throughout the country, on the initiative of large industrial groups such as Muyuan Foods or New Hope.

The latter has just completed the construction of a complex of three five-story buildings on an area of 140,000 square meters, or twenty football fields. See also Small volcanic eruptions could be enough to ruin the world

This giant plant, whose hints can be felt more than a kilometer around, has a production capacity of 120,000 pigs a year, al Jazeera describes.

Given the number of animals in the building, any virus or bacteria is likely to spread like wildfire. Everything is therefore done to isolate the pigs from the outside world as much as possible.

Room service

The staff is subject to sanitary protocols worthy of a biosecurity laboratory, reports Al Jazeera, with mandatory shower at the entrance and exit and prohibition to wear any bracelet or watch.

Robots monitor the temperature of animals and distribute their food several times a day. Advanced air filtration and automatic disinfection system aim to eradicate any microbe. Some factories have even built dormitories for employees to limit the risk of contamination from outside.

If China has converted to these sanitized pig hotels, it is because the fear of African swine fever is omnipresent in the country. By 2019, the outbreak had almost halved China’s livestock population, resulting in record inflation. See also Thousands of Breton pigs fly in 747 to China

In particular, small family farms with poor hygiene conditions had been implicated, and mass culls had been carried out. Although the herd is recovering at high speed, the epidemic continues to circulate: eleven outbreaks of swine fever have been detected since the beginning of the year, according to the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.

The rise of these pig hotels also responds to rapid urbanization, which reduces the spaces available for agriculture. Three times as many pigs can be collected per unit area, and the effluent can be used to fertilize and irrigate surrounding orchards, new hope boasts.

Increased production is a major challenge for China, which imported a record 4.4 million tonnes of pork in 2020 due to the swine fever crisis.

Even if in France we are far from these giant Chinese-style pigsties, the size of the farms continues to increase, emphasizes the Ministry of Agriculture. It has thus increased from an average of 220 pigs in 2000 to 844 pigs in 2019. Farms with more than 2,000 animals now represent 65% of the French herd.

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