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THE PIG FACTORY: China’s plan to increase ‘pork’ production by building high-rise factory farms


A pig farm in name only, the 26-story building is more like a Foxconn factory for pigs with the precision required of an iPhone production line. Even pig feces are measured, collected and repurposed.

DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI: The first sows arrived in late September at the hulking, 26-story high-rise towering above a rural village in central China. The female pigs were whisked away dozens at a time in industrial elevators to the higher floors where the hogs would reside from insemination to maturity. This is pig farming in China, where agricultural land is scarce, food production is lagging and pork supply is a strategic imperative.

Inside the edifice, which resembles the monolithic housing blocks seen across China and stands as tall as the London tower that houses Big Ben, the pigs are monitored on high-definition cameras by uniformed technicians in a NASA-like command center. Each floor operates like a self-contained farm for the different stages of a young pig’s life: an area for pregnant pigs, a room for farrowing piglets, spots for nursing and space for fattening the hogs.

Feed is carried on a conveyor belt to the top floor, where it’s collected in giant tanks that deliver more than 1 million pounds of food a day to the floors below through high-tech feeding troughs that automatically dispense the meal to the hogs based on their stage of life, weight and health.

The building, on the outskirts of Ezhou, a city on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, is hailed as the world’s biggest free-standing pig farm with a second identical hog high-rise opening soon. The first farm started operating in October, and once both buildings reach full capacity this year, it is expected to raise 1.2 million pigs annually…

Built by Hubei Zhongxin Kaiwei Modern Animal Husbandry, a cement manufacturer turned pig breeder, the Ezhou farm stands like a monument to China’s ambition to modernize pork production. “China’s current pig breeding is still decades behind the most advanced nations,” said Zhuge Wenda, the company’s president. “This provides us with room for improvement to catch up.” The farm is next to the company’s cement factory, in a region known as the “Land of Fish and Rice” for its importance to Chinese cuisine with its fertile farmlands and surrounding bodies of water.

A pig farm in name, the operation is more like a Foxconn factory for pigs with the precision required of an iPhone production line. Even pig feces are measured, collected and repurposed. Roughly one-quarter of the feed will come out as dry excrement that can be repurposed as methane to generate electricity…

In rural villages, where backyard farms once dotted the countryside, megafarms are sprouting up. Three years ago, as property and infrastructure sectors started to slump, Hubei Zhongxin Kaiwei decided to use a neighboring plot and apply its construction expertise to branch out into a business with better growth prospects. It invested $600 million to build the high-rise pig farms with an additional $900 million earmarked for a nearby meat processing plant.

Its background in cement is useful in pig farming, the company said. Using its existing employees, it built a land-saving high-rise with reinforced concrete. It is using excess heat from the cement factory to provide hot baths and warm drinking water to the pigs. This, according to Hubei Zhongxin Kaiwei, will help the pigs grow faster with less feed. SOURCE…


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