Hidden away at a farm in southern China is a humongous pig who is as heavy as a polar bear at 1,102 pounds.
As an outbreak of African swine fever, also known as “pig Ebola,” ravages Asia’s pork industry, the price of pork is soaring. In an effort to temper inflation, the Chinese government is urging farmers to increase their production of pigs. While the polar-bear-sized pig may be on the high side, farmers in the northeastern province of Jilin have responded by raising pigs to weigh between 385 and 440 pounds, much higher than the average 275. Zhao Hailin, a pig farmer in Jilin, said they want to raise pigs to be “as big as possible.”
Not just small farms are breeding unnaturally large pigs. Huge companies like Wens Foodstuffs Group Co, China’s top pig breeder, have jumped on the trend. In fact, according to a senior analyst at Bric Agriculture Group, large pig farms aim to increase the size of the animals by at least 14 percent.
While a pig’s natural life span is about 15 years, factory farms selectively breed pigs to grow so fast that they reach slaughter size in just six months. This rapid growth takes a toll on their bodies, causing joint pain and other ailments. By increasing the size of pigs, Chinese farmers are setting up the animals to suffer even more.
Sadly, pigs are not the only animals selectively bred to grow too large too quickly. In the United States, 9 billion chickens raised for meat each year grow a startling six times faster than they did in 1925. This increased growth rate often causes heart failure, lameness, bone infections, sudden death syndrome, and more. The birds’ massiveness also makes moving difficult, with some chickens unable to reach food or water.