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A History of Pigs in China: From Curious Omnivores to Industrial Pork


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Pigs have played a central role in the subsistence and culture of China for millennia. The close relationship between pigs and people began when humans gradually domesticated wild pigs over 8,000 years ago. While pigs initially foraged around settlements, population growth led people to pen their pigs, which made them household trash processors and fertilizer producers. Household pigs were in daily contact with people, who bred them to fatten quickly and produce larger litters. Early modern Europeans found Chinese pigs far superior to their own and bred the two to create the breeds now employed in industrial pork production around the world, including China. In recent decades, industrial farms that scientifically control every aspect of pigs’ lives have spread rapidly. Until recently, most Chinese people ate pork only on special occasions; their ability in recent decades to eat it regularly exemplifies China's increasing prosperity. Meanwhile, vast areas of North and South American farmland are now devoted to growing soybeans to feed hundreds of millions of pigs in China, and the methane, manure, and antibiotic resistance they produce creates environmental and health problems on a global scale.
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A History of Pigs in China: From Curious Omnivores
to Industrial Pork
Pigs have played a central role in the subsistence and culture of China for millennia. The
close relationship between pigs and people began when humans gradually domesticated
wild pigs over 8,000 years ago. While pigs initially foraged around settlements, popula-
tion growth led people to pen their pigs, which made them household trash processors and
fertilizer producers. Household pigs were in daily contact with people, who bred them to
fatten quickly and produce larger litters. Early modern Europeans found Chinese pigs far
superior to their own and bred the two to create the breeds now employed in industrial
pork production around the world, including China. In recent decades, industrial farms
that scientically control every aspect of pigslives have spread rapidly. Until recently,
most Chinese people ate pork only on special occasions; their ability in recent decades
to eat it regularly exemplies Chinas increasing prosperity. Meanwhile, vast areas of
North and South American farmland are now devoted to growing soybeans to feed hun-
dreds of millions of pigs in China, and the methane, manure, and antibiotic resistance
they produce creates environmental and health problems on a global scale.
Keywords: pigs, China, animals, agriculture, livestock, food, environment
A farmer who doesnt raise pigs is like a scholar who doesnt read books.
An old Chinese saying (Zhang and Chen 1983, 62)
WINSTON CHURCHILL IS RUMORED to have said I like pigs: dogs look up to us; cats look
down on us; pigs treat us as equals(Speake 2015, 82). While pigs may have seen
a kindred spirit in Churchill, his statement reects an opinion widely held by those
who have looked a pig in the eye: they look back at us with condence and intelligence.
And we do have a lot in common. We are both gregarious omnivores whose dietary
exibility engendered a curious disposition as well as simpler digestive physiology
Brian Lander ( is Assistant Professor of History & Environment and
Society at Brown University. Mindi Schneider ( is Assistant Professor of
Sociology of Development and Change at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. Katherine
Brunson ( is Assistant Professor of Archaeology at Wesleyan University.
The Journal of Asian Studies page 1 of 25, 2020.
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and metabolisms than more specialized feeders. We are around the same size andhave
similar skin, inner organs, and cardiovascular systems (Swindle and Smith 2015). By
being intelligent omnivores, we have both ourished across many different environ-
ments. The partnership between humans and domesticated animals has been so suc-
cessful that we have replaced most of the other mammals on earth: humans and our
livestock now make up over 95 percent of mammalian biomass on earth, half of
which is composed of humans and pigs.
The relationship between people and pigs
began as a partnership, but humans now raise pigs in a relationship that can only be
described as exploitation.
Chinese pigs have played a leading role in the global history of pigs. In 2018 China was
home to half of the worlds 1.3 billion pigs (USDA 2018). Not only did pigs occupy an impor-
tant place in the history of Chinese agriculture and cuisine, but most pigs eaten in the world
today descend in part from pigs that were domesticated in China. Chinese farmers bred pigs
that matured and reproduced quickly, and early modern Europeans bred these with their
own pigs to produce improvedbreeds that became the basis for the modern industrial
pig. This article traces the history of pigs in China from wild pigs through their long
history as village pigs to their current status as capitalist pigs (White 2011). Along the
way, it will show how pig history and human history have become inseparable.
The Western scholarly tradition long emphasized human dominion over sh, fowl,
and beasts, but recent scholarship has shown that humans often had far less agency in
this process than we like to think. Humans have always lived in communities composed
of many species, from microorganisms to elephants, and even when we have managed to
gain control over other species, it has often required considerable changes to our own
societies (Crosby 1972; Mikhail 2014; Ritvo 1987; Trautmann 2015; Zeder 2012b).
Rather than engage in theoretical debates, this article uses the example of pigs in
China to show how the relationship between pigs and people in China has always been
co-constitutive, despite changing fundamentally over the millennia (Bulliet 2005;
Haraway 2008; Morton 2017). The building of this relationship entailed a transformation
in almost every aspect of human existence, from emotional, religious, and symbolic life to
the spatial layout of houses and landscapes.
This article is the rst overview of the history of Chinese pigs in any language. In con-
trast to most animal histories, which focus on recent centuries, it is a collaboration
between a zooarchaeologist, a historian, and a development sociologist that traces the
long history of pigs and people from a time when the two species lived separately
through the long process of domestication to the industrial present. While humans
have experimented with hundreds of different species of plants and animals over the mil-
lennia, in recent centuries, we have come to rely on a very small number of them. To
understand this, we must consider what kinds of species they were before they were
domesticated and the process by which they became essential to human societies.
The total dry biomass of all living humans is estimated at 0.06 gigatons (60 million metric tons) of
carbon (Gt C) and that of livestock at 0.1 Gt C, one-fth of which is composed of pigs. The total
biomass of all wild mammals has been reduced to a mere 0.007 Gt C (Bar-On, Phillips, and
Milo 2018; Smil 2013).
2 Brian Lander, Mindi Schneider, and Katherine Brunson
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Pigs are gregarious, even-toed, hoofed mammals whose short stature makes them
well suited for moving through dense vegetation (Watson 2004). Wild pigs live in
groups of varying sizes and use their large ears not only to listen for danger but also to
hear one anothers grunts and squeals. This may be why a group of pigs is called a
sounder. Their large heads end in their most famous feature, their highly sensitive and
exible noses, which they use to root in the ground for food. They have the simple stom-
achs of animals that eat a wide variety of plants and animals, rather than the complex guts
of ruminants like cattle that specialize in digesting coarse, low-nutrient plant matter.
There are about sixteen species of wild pigs in the world, including peccaries of the
Americas, warthogs and river pigs of Africa, and various species of the Sus genus, which
originated, and still has its highest diversity, in Southeast Asia (Frantz et al. 2016). The
ancestor of the domestic pig is Sus scrofa, the wild boar, whose native range extends
across Eurasia from North Africa to Indonesia but is now found in feral form in many
other places. Their ability to thrive in such diverse habitats and their success in making
themselves essential to humans, even as farms replaced their forest habitat, shows how
tough and adaptable pigs are.
Like most pigs, wild boars live in groups. Sows reach sexual maturity at about eight to
ten months and begin mating at around eighteen months. Gestation usually lasts just
under four months, after which sows give birth to litters of four to eight piglets,
usually once a year (Baser, Ford, and Kensinger 2001). Mothers and their litters often
band together in groups (Nowak 1999). While females stay with their mothers until
they begin mating, males leave voluntarily or are expelled from the sounder, often
coming together in groups of young boars who wait their turn to challenge older males
for the chance to mate. Wild pigs are not territorial but tend to have xed spots in
their range, such as those for sleeping (which can occupy half of their time) and for def-
ecating, which is generally done at a single spot separate from their sleeping and eating
areas. Pigs are not the lthy creatures they are popularly imagined to be, though they
have little choice if conned in pens (Mizelle 2011).
Genetic and zooarchaeological evidence indicates that pigs were domesticated from
wild boars in multiple locations across Eurasia (Price and Hongo, forthcoming). This
process began with people managing wild boar populations. In western Eurasia, we
know that people valued boar because they transported them by boat from the mainland
to Cyprus (Vigne et al. 2011). Such a close relationship with a nondomesticated animal is
not surprising, as it is becoming increasingly clear that people around the world often
tamed and lived alongside various kinds of animals. Zooarchaeological evidence of
gradual changes in skeletal morphology and culling practices in Anatolia suggest that
the period of managing wild herds was followed by several millennia of gradual domes-
tication (Ervynck et al. 2001; Hongo and Meadow 1998; Redding and Rosenberg 1998).
Domesticated pigs were then introduced to Europe, where they continued to interbreed
with wild populations (Larson et al. 2007; Ottoni et al. 2013).
In China, pigs were domesticated at least once and perhaps multiple times. Zooarch-
aeological evidence suggests that they may have been domesticated independently in the
Yellow, Yangzi, and Liao River valleys (Luo 2012). The earliest archaeological evidence
for pig domestication in the Yellow River valley comes from the site of Jiahu in Henan
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(ca. 9,0007,800 years ago), where changes in the size and shape of teeth, an increased
proportion of pig bones compared with those of other animals, and the fact that pigs were
killed at a younger age all point to management of pigs by humans (Cucchi et al. 2011;
Luo and Zhang 2008). Several other sites in the Yellow River valley have similar evidence,
though scholars disagree on whether this dates to 7,8007,300 years ago or later than
6,000 years ago (Barton et al. 2009; Qi, Lin, and An 2006; Yuan and Flad 2002).
There is also archaeological evidence that pigs were independently domesticated in
the Yangzi River valley (Yuan and Yang 2004; Yuan and Flad 2002). And there may
have been a third center of domestication in the Western Liao River valley of Manchuria,
where pigs were used in ritual practices. Pig skulls were frequently found in pits and
buried under houses (Yuan 2006; Zhongguo 1997), and entire pig skeletons were
found in a high-status burial at the site of Xinglongwa (ca. 8,2007,400 years ago).
While zooarchaeological evidence suggests three independent domestication events,
DNA evidence is less clear. Mitochondrial DNA analyses of living domestic pigs in East
Asia show that they cluster into several lineagestwo of which are centered in the Yellow
River valley and Yangzi River valley regionswhich also suggests that these two regions
were centers of domestication (Larson et al. 2005,2010). However, ancient DNA
research reveals that the earliest pigs in all three regions belong to the same mitochon-
drial DNA lineage. This suggests that domestic pigs were introduced from the Yellow
River region or that there was parallel domestication in these regions with gene ow
between various wild and domestic pig populations during the initial stages of domesti-
cation (Xiang et al. 2017). These studies also suggest long-term genetic continuity
between ancient and modern Chinese domestic pigs, which means that Chinese pigs
are direct descendants of indigenous wild boar populations (Larson et al. 2010; Xiang
et al. 2017). The middle Yellow River region was clearly a center of domestication, but
the evidence for domestication in other regions of China remains unclear.
Regardless of whether pigs were domesticated once or several times in East Asia,
early pig exploitation in all three regions is linked to signicant socioeconomic changes
beginning about 9,000 years ago. Neolithic peoples domesticated dogs, came to rely
on crops like millet and rice, began to make ceramics and ground stone tools, and
settled down to live in permanent villages (Liu and Chen 2012; Wu et al. 2012; Yang
et al. 2012). This was a gradual process. In both ends of Eurasia, pig domestication
was characterized by several millennia of increasing management and domestication of
wild boar during the slow transition in human subsistence associated with the emergence
of early farming societies. Chinese pigs were eventually carried to Japan and Southeast
Asia and across the Pacic as far as Hawaii (Hongo 2019; Kirch 2017).
Given that most other Eurasian domestic species were only domesticated once, it is
worth asking why pigs were domesticated more than once. While scholars once assumed
that pigs were domesticated when people captured and then raised them, it is increas-
ingly clear that pigs played an active role in this process, at least in the early stages, by
frequenting human settlements to scavenge on crops or human trash. During these
forays, tamer pigs would have come into closer contact with humans and formed a rela-
tionship that gradually led to domestication. This is also how dogs were domesticated, and
it is known as a commensal pathway to domestication (Larson and Fuller 2014; Zeder
2012a,2012b). Since pigs are omnivores that are naturally well adapted to human ecosys-
tems, there were many opportunities for domestication as humans modied landscapes
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during the development of agriculture across several regions of the world (Boivin et al.
2016). Pigs were not only tasty and nutritious, they also helped clear human settlements
by eating rubbish, and thus they were well worth keeping around (similar to dogs in China
and elsewhere: see Mikhail 2014,67106; Skabelund 2011,1819).
People in Neolithic China continued to exploit wild boar and other wild animals long
after pigs were rst domesticated, and the two probably continued to interbreed (Luo
2012;Yuan1999). Genetic research shows that ancient gene ow between wild and domes-
ticstockswascommonforpigsandotherdomesticated animals (Gaunitz et al. 2018;Mar-
shall et al. 2014). In parts of island Southeast Asia and Oceania, people pen female domestic
pigs at night but allow them to roam freely during the day and breed with feral males, which
they also hunt (Rappaport 1967; Redding and Rosenberg 1998). This is a useful model for
thinking about how people in Neolithic China mayhavekeptpigs.Thepresenceofferalpig
populations around the world today is further evidence that domestication is a uid process
(Fleischman 2017;Gibson2016). Moreover, boar are one of the few species of larger wild
animals that have remained widespread in China, even as farms have replaced forests (Clark
and Sowerby 1912, 94; Smith and Xie 2008,452).
Pigs began to play a role in the increasing hierarchy of agricultural societies in the Yellow
and Yangzi River valleys about 7,000 years ago, being employed in competitive feasting and
status displays (Cucchi et al. 2016;LiuandChen2012;Luo2012). As in other parts of the
world, sociopolitical competition promoted increasing exploitation of key domestic plants
and animals. Archaeologist Bryan Hayden (1990,2003) argues that the rst plant and
animal domesticates were initially used in ritual feasting events and only gradually
became dietary staples; this may well be true of pigs in East Asia. The archaeological
record reveals that pigs were commonly used in sacricial and funerary rituals (Kim 1994;
Liu 1996;Luo2012; Yuan and Flad 2002,2005), but they did not become dietary staples
in the Yellow River valley until about 6,000 years ago (Cucchi et al. 2016;Ma2005;Ma
2007). In other regions of China, pigs did not become dietary staples until several millennia
after that (Yuan 1999). By the Bronze Age, pigs occupied diverse socioeconomic roles that
ranged from basic subsistence to political ritualsespecially sacricial rites.
The main historical difference between the pigs at each end of Eurasia is that pigs in
Europe continued to forage in forests and interbreed with wild boar into modern times
(Grove and Rackham 2001, 190216; Parsons 1962; Pastoureau 2009), while those in
China were increasingly penned (Larson et al. 2010; Marshall et al. 2014). As population
growth in the agricultural lowlands of China reduced the amount of wild land on which
pigs could forage, people had to pen their pigs and take full responsibility for their
feeding and breeding. Penning makes pigs fatter, and because people had to dedicate
resources to feed pigs, they bred them to produce larger litters and to grow and reach
sexual maturity more quickly (Pugliese et al. 2003). They also selected for tameness
and lowered reactivity, with the result that the pigsbrains diminished in size by a third
(Zeder 2012a). Growing populations and a consequent reduction in shared resources
also led to other forms of intensication like silviculture and aquaculture, evidence that
once-common resources like trees and sh had become scarce enough that people
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were forced to produce them (Shih 1982). Under these conditions, pigs were increasingly
valued not only for meat but also for eating the familys rubbish and producing manure.
Across Eurasia, historians seeking historical records of pigs often nd that since pigs for
the most part were taken for granted, their existence did not generate much commentary
(Malcolmson and Mastoris 1998, xiii). Chinese documents frequently mention horses, cattle,
and sheep, herds of which were valuable concentrations of resources, but pigs were owned
in small numbers by the plebeian masses and could not be easily taxed. For this reason,
neither the literate elite nor the state was interested in them, and they are rarely mentioned
in Chinas many texts on agriculture, husbandry, and animal medicine. Horsesessential
bothforarmiesandforthoseeagertodisplaytheirhigherstatusreceived vastly more
attention in the literature, despite being far less common. A bibliography of premodern agri-
cultural treatises lists over seventy titlesonhorsesandcattlebutonlytwoonpigs(Wang
2006;seealsoBray2018). Nonetheless, there is enough evidence to reconstruct the
general history of pigs in the historical period.
Oracle bone inscriptions of the late second millennium BCE, the earliest Chinese
writing, contain abundant records of wild and domestic pigs () being hunted and sac-
riced, and they contain terms for adult female (+), adult male (or ), castrated
(), young (), and wild () pigs (Wang and Yang 1999, 544; see also Schwartz 2019,
2020). Because the standard Chinese term for house(jia ) depicts a pig in a building,
it is often cited as evidence of the importance of pigs to Chinese families. In fact, the pig
element of the character was originally phonetic: scribes drew a pig inside a building not
for its meaning but because the word for pig was pronounced like the word for house,
thus indicating how to read the character (Huang 2007, 1359). It is now the standard
word for family and the second part of nation-family(guojia ), the Chinese
word for country and state.
By 2,000 years ago, there were tens of millions of people in the lowlands of North
China, which had been converted almost entirely to farmland, leaving little extra land
for foraging pigs (Bielenstein 1987, 193). Over the subsequent millennium, the Lower
Yangzi region also became densely populated. A thirteenth-century CE agricultural trea-
tise states that lakes and mountains were the best places in that region to raise pigs, pre-
sumably because they were the only places that still had wild plants for pigs to eat (Kuo
2013, 75). Similarly, an eighteenth-century manual states that while pigs near mountain
forests could be fed acorns, chestnuts, leaves, and herbs and those near lakes could be fed
aquatic plants, farmers in other areas had to collect tree leaves for pigs and also feed them
their own crops, like melons, leafy plants, and Chinese yams (Zhang 1989,585;seealsoYang
[1740] 1962, 165). In general, people only fed grain to piglets and high-value pigs like those
raised to produce fancy ham (Kuo 2013,182;Wittwer1987; Yang [1740] 1962,164).
The growing density of human populations helps explain why pigs became so
common. While the increasing agricultural population eliminated larger wild mammals
from the lowlands of China, it also reduced the availability of grazing land for sheep,
cattle, and horses (Lander and Brunson 2018). The result was that the role of these
animals in Chinese agriculture was much smaller than in that of most other parts of
Eurasia, though sheep and goats were still common in hilly or arid regions with marginal
farmland (Bray 1984). The only domesticated animals able to thrive in most villages were
pigs, dogs, and chickens, all omnivores able to eat whatever was available (see gure 1).
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Most households raised only a few pigs each year, which they slaughtered for impor-
tant celebrations like weddings and the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). While these
were the only times many people ate fresh pork, they also preserved meat and saved lard
to cook with after the festivities ended (Huang 2000). Lard was commonly used to fry
vegetables and valued for the avor it imparted. Because pig diets were composed pri-
marily of carbohydrates (in the form of coarse plants and kitchen scraps) with very
little protein, the meat of most Chinese breeds was fattier than todays pork. Cooking
methods and dishes were based on this characteristic and the forms and avors it pro-
duced. Fat contains more than twice as much energy as carbohydrates or proteins, and
it was often a delicacy in agrarian societies, in which people were more likely to be
hungry than obese (Smil 2008, 121). Many Chinese pork dishes, most famously Mao
Zedongs favorite red braised pork belly,consist mostly of tender lard.
Given how rarely common people ate pigs, they might not have considered them
worth the effort of raising if they had not also provided other services, namely, cleaning
up waste and producing fertilizer. The ability of pigs to clean up farm villages by eating
almost every kind of waste was probably valued from early times. Stable isotopes
extracted from pig bones found at Neolithic sites in North China indicate that pigs ate
plenty of human food waste and other rubbish (Barton et al. 2009; Cucchi et al. 2016;
Ma et al. 2016; Pechenkina et al. 2005).
As populations grew, pig manure became
increasingly important. Population growth reduced the amount of arable land per
person, forcing people to reduce fallows and plant crops more often on the same land,
which was only possible with fertilizer. For poorer farmers who rarely had the luxury
of eating their pigs, manure production was often the main purpose of raising pigs.
This articles epigraph, which states that farming without raising pigs is like being a
scholar without reading books, means that pig manure is as important to farmers as
books are to scholars.
Figure 1. Ceramic models of domestic pigs excavated from the Yang Mausoleum in
Xianyang, Shaanxi, the tomb of Han Emperor Jing (d. 141 BCE) (http://www.metmu- Thanks to the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology
for permission to use these images.
Elevated levels of δ
C (a stable isotope of carbon) in excavated pig bones suggest that pigs ate
plenty of millet, a C4 plant. Elevated levels of δ
N (a stable isotope of nitrogen) reect diets
that included signicant amounts of meat, feces, or food grown in manure.
A History of Pigs in China 7
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People in early China often built privies over pigsties, an ingenious way to provide
pigs a safe living space that was also a waste disposal system and convenient source of
manure (Nemeth 1998; Xiao 1986) (see gure 2). We know of these privies from
many ceramic gurines buried in tombs from the Han dynasty (ca. 200 BCE200
CE), presumably to ensure that the dead had access to a toilet, manure, and pork.
Given their proximity to houses, the pens were probably cleaned regularly to reduce
the smell, so we should not assume that privy pigs lived in piles of lth. Agricultural trea-
tises emphasize the importance of keeping them clean for the health of the pigs. People
were acutely aware of the danger of diseases to pigs, which are mentioned in several
works (Kuo 2013,87110). The fact that people, pigs, and other animals lived in proxim-
ity for millennia allowed them to share many diseases, although how and when this hap-
pened remains unclear (Morand, McIntyre, and Baylis 2014; Pearce-Duvet 2006).
While people kept them for sanitation, manure, and food, pigs were much more than
just possessions; they were also intelligent beings with whom farming families interacted
every day and thus had meaningful relationships (Malcolmson and Mastoris 1998). As
with subsistence farmers and herders around the world, people paid careful attention
to the well-being of their pigs, not only because they were valuable but because they
were members of families and communities. The fact that these were genuine relation-
ships is not diminished by the fact that people ended up eating or selling the pigs.
The sixth-century agricultural manual Essential Techniques for the People (Qimin
yaoshu ), which was written in the North China Plain, contains a brief
section on raising pigs (Jia, Miao, and Miao 2006). It recommends that females with
short snouts and no soft hair should be chosen for breeding, based on the logic that
short-snouted pigs fatten more quickly and soft fur is difcult to extract when making
leather. It advises farmers to raise female piglets separately from their mothers in
order to fatten them more quickly but to leave male piglets with their mother to
create a family bond that would discourage males from running away when they are
Figure 2. Ceramic model of a privy over the pen of a nursing sow with piglets exca-
vated from a Western Han (nal two centuries BCE) tomb in Jiyuan, Henan (Henan
sheng bowuguan 1973). ©Henan Museum.
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let out to forage. It suggests letting pigs out to forage in the warmer seasons and stock-
piling various agricultural residues like chaff and brewing dregs to feed them during the
winter months. It also contains instructions on castration and incubating newborn piglets
in a steamer, and it suggests half-burying cart wheels to make pens that would allow
piglets, but not their mothers, to move freely in and out. Many of these practices were
later adopted by industrial pig farmers.
While pigs had an important place in the domestic economy, they became valuable
commodities wherever there were markets. China has been a mercantile society for well
over 2,000 years. Butchers served an important function, selling small quantities of meat
so that people who could afford to eat meat could do so without having to kill a whole pig.
Hundreds of pigs were slaughtered every day in large cities, like twelfth-century Hang-
zhou (Gernet 1962, 46; Kuo 2013, 71). As commerce expanded after around 1500, people
increasingly raised pigs for the market. A division of labor emerged in which services like
castration were performed by traveling specialists (Kuo 2013,92107). Specialist produc-
ers of high-quality ham also emerged to supply expanding markets (Kuo 2013). It should
be noted that there has been a substantial Muslim population in Chinas northwest for
over a millennium who tended not to dine with pork eaters, so that their pork avoidance
became a central element of their identity.
The result of millions of farmers breeding pigs over millennia was the creation of a
wide variety of regional breeds. In 1960, Chinasrst national survey of indigenous live-
stock identied more than one hundred indigenous pig breeds, with countless locally
adapted varieties that could thrive in a variety of landscapes and climatic conditions
(Cheng 1984). The enormous diversity makes it difcult to generalize, but southern
pigs were smaller and more fecund while northern pigs tended to be larger and
hairier, suited to foraging on harvested elds during cold winters, and probably still
bred with wild boar (Clark and Sowerby 1912, 42, 137). Eventually these southern
pigs were carried to Europe, where they were bred with local pigs to create the industrial
hog breeds that now constitute most of the worlds pigs.
The Romans developed a breed of short, fat, pen-raised pigs that were markedly dif-
ferent from the semi-wild foraging types and probably had some similarities with Chinese
penned pigs. But these pigs disappeared along with the Roman Empire and its
pork-loving aristocracy (Essig 2015,6576; MacKinnon 2001). In contrast, pig breeding
continued without disruption throughout Chinese history. By the seventeenth century,
Chinas pigs matured and fattened much faster and had more offspring than European
pigs, which continued to interbreed with wild boar. Because ships frequently carried
live pigs to eat on the voyage, it is not surprising that Chinese pigs arrived in Europe,
where farmers bred them with native breeds (see gure 3). This was a decisive event
in the history of pigs. Sam White (2011) has argued that European pigs produced
meat so inefciently that they might have dropped out of the modern meat industry alto-
gether if Europeans had not discovered Chinese pigs.
Differences in maturation rates and litter size between wild boar and Chinese pigs
illustrate the degree to which the latter were selectively bred for fast and vigorous
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reproduction. Wild boar reach puberty in eight to ten months and have litters of four to
eight piglets, while Chinese Meishan pigs can reach puberty in three months, have litters
of around fteen piglets, and often produce two litters per year (OSU 2019). English pig
farmers began to breed their pigs with Chinese imports no later than the eighteenth
century, greatly increasing meat productivity. This occurred in the context of increasingly
commercialized agriculture, in which large farms produced for the market, competing
not only with other pork producers but also with other meat producers generally. The
goal was to improve taste and, most importantly, to raise pigs that grew faster and
bigger, thereby reducing costs. While pigs in China had often been raised for sale, the
incessant competition characteristic of early capitalism led English farmers to experiment
with pigs more systematically and consistently than had occurred in China.
As late as 1700, English pigs spent much of their time foraging for food, regularly
interbreeding with wild or feral pigs, and took a year and a half to reach maturity
(White 2011). Over the following 150 years, English farmers bred their stockier domestic
breeds with fatter, quick-maturing Chinese breeds to produce such breeds as Yorkshire,
Berkshire, Hampshire, and Suffolk, which could grow large enough to slaughter in as
little as nine months (White 2011, 108; see also Bosse et al. 2014). The interbreeding
of Chinese and Western pigs has continued since then. In the 1970s and 1980s, European
and American breeders imported high-fertility pigs from China to produce new breeds,
and they continue to experiment with crosses between these kinds of pigs (McOrist 2009;
Tang et al. 2008). While indigenous Chinese pigs continue to exhibit local genetic varia-
tion based on millennia of local breeding, most of the worlds domestic pigs today are
descendants of these European-Chinese breeds (Frantz et al. 2016,7778; Megens
et al. 2008).
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Chinas population grew by hun-
dreds of millions, forcing people to farm ever more marginal land and to intensify pro-
duction by carefully using pig and human manure (Worster 2017). Mao Zedong
Figure 3. The common boaron the left is a depiction of the native British breed of
domestic pigs, while the text on the right reveals how highly the mixed breeds were
regarded (Bewick 1924;rst seen in White 2011).
10 Brian Lander, Mindi Schneider, and Katherine Brunson
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praised pigs as fertilizer factories,pointing to their importance in agricultural produc-
tion and productivity and in underwriting the predominantly plant-based diets that
dened China for thousands of years (Schmalzer 2002) (see gure 4). When Mao met
with Richard Nixon in the early 1970s and the two countries normalized relations, the
Chinese government purchased several modern nitrogen fertilizer factories. Chinas pro-
duction of synthetic fertilizers has grown exponentially since then, greatly diminishing the
agricultural importance of pig manure just as it began to be produced in ever-greater
quantities (Marks 2017, 31116). Given the scale of industrial pork production today,
the substitution of manure with synthetic fertilizers has transformed manure from a valu-
able agricultural input to a source of crippling waste on a national scale.
The most dramatic change in the relationship between people and pigs in China has
occurred over the past forty years, with the industrialization of pig farming and the move-
ment of pig production from the household to the so-called factory farm. This new system
is a radical departure from the traditionalmode of pig raising in terms of scale, time,
inputs, outputs, and labor. Until 1985, as much as 95 percent of all the pork in China
was produced by smallholder farmers who raised fewer than ve pigs per year on house-
hold plots (Jian 2010). Pigs historically lived for nearly a year and were slaughtered annu-
ally for Spring Festival feasts, after which their fat would be saved and used later for
Figure 4. More pigs means more fertilizer and higher grain production(Yang 1959).
Thanks to for permission to use the image of this poster, which is held
in a private collection.
A History of Pigs in China 11
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cooking vegetables. People also slaughtered pigs for weddings and other celebrations and
to use as a gift to curry political or social favor (Anderson 1988; Hsu and Hsu 1977). Pigs
themselves ate mostly agricultural and household scraps, either grazing on their own, or
fed in pens by household members. Manure remained a valuable source of fertilizer in
the Mao era, when pigs were raised variously in households and in collectives (Schmalzer
Soon after the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976, the government initiated its
program of Reform and Opening,launching decollectivization and selective liberalization
and privatization of agricultural sectors and markets. Agribusiness became a site for invest-
ment and prot, and policies in the late 1980s and early 1990s were aimed at developing a
domestic livestock industry, industrializing and scaling-up production, and increasing espe-
cially urban meat consumption (Schneider 2019). Conned animal feeding operations,or
CAFOs, were included in the push to industrialization. CAFOs are the technological
heart of industrial pig production broadly, developed in the United States in the postwar
era, separating livestock and crop production agroecologically and geographically (e.g.,
Anderson 2019;EmelandNeo2015;Finlay2004; Foster and Magdoff 2000). In
CAFOs, hundreds to hundreds of thousands of genetically identical (or nearly identical)
animals are raised together in buildings for the entirely of their much shortened lives:
because of the scientic production of genetics and feed regimens, a CAFO pig grows
to slaughter weight in about six months. All of their feed is provided by (waged)
workers, often at the end of commodity chains for feed that span continents.
As the structure of Chinas pork sector shifted, pork production and consumption
skyrocketed, transforming domestic agriculture and meat consumption, and global
meat markets and resource ows (Oliveira and Schneider 2015; Schneider 2019).
Already in 1979one year into reformChina helped make pork the most produced
and consumed meat in the world, overtaking beef and later doubling it. In the 1970s,
there were around 500 million pigs on earth. By 2018, farmers and companies in
China alone produced almost 55 million tonnes of pork from a domestic swine herd of
710 million head, half the worlds total. China was also the worlds largest pork importer
in 2018, bringing in 1.5 million tonnes, or 19 percent of total global pork trade (USDA
2018). Although traditionalways of farming remain in some places, Chinas is now a
modern, globalized pork industry.
Rural people are increasingly giving up pig raising and migrating to cities, where they
provide Chinas booming economy with poorly paid laborers. As in the twentieth-century
West, people are moving to cities where their only connection with farm animals occurs
when they eat them (Bulliet 2005). In 2015 the pork sector was composed mostly of
medium-scale household farms (up to 500 pigs per year), large-scale commercial farms
(50010,000 pigs per year), and mega-operations (more than 10,000 pigs per year)
(Fok and Hui 2017). Chinas pork is increasingly supplied by agribusiness and large-scale
livestock operations, especially in cities, where meat (and pork) consumption is at least
three times higher than in rural areas (Xiao et al. 2015).
Breeding and Feeding the Modern Hog
The transformation of pig farming illustrates how local-level changes simultaneously
reshape the global system, starting with the body of the pig itself. The pigs that populate
Chinas pork industry are modern hogs: improved breedsof Chinese and European
12 Brian Lander, Mindi Schneider, and Katherine Brunson
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ancestry that transnational and domestic genetics rms import from Europe and the
United States. The most popular breeds in China, and in the world, are of the Duroc,
Landrace, and Yorkshire types, commonly abbreviated DLY.In contrast to the gregari-
ous, omnivorous domestic pigs of premodern China, the modern hog is made explicitly to
survive and thrive in industrial conditions. Modern hogs have one purpose: to convert the
least amount of grain and oilseed-based feed into the highest amount of lean muscle in the
shortest possible time. This is only possible through breeding programs that carefully tailor
pigs to be muscle-producing machines, helped along by a combination of industrial feed
mixes, antibiotics and the controlled environment of the CAFO.
Modern hogs are replacing indigenous Chinese pigs. The 1960 national livestock survey
that identied more than one hundred indigenous pig breeds was followed in the 2000s by a
survey that found only eighty-eight domestic breeds. The survey concluded that two decades
of exotic breed importation had caused the extinction of eight breeds, left thirty-one endan-
gered and that 85 percent of indigenous pig breeds had declined in numbers (Cheng 1984;
Frantz et al. 2016;Yang2013,2015). By 2010, over 90 percent of the pork produced in China
was from DLY pigs and indigenous-exotic hybrids, according to an ofcial in the livestock
division of Chinas Ministry of Agriculture (interview with Mindi Schneider, Ministry of Agri-
culture, Beijing, September 17, 2010). Indigenous breeds are increasingly raised only on spe-
cialty boutique pigfarms or on state-funded and largely privately run conservation farms
tasked with preserving genetic diversity. Ecologists and animal scientists are concerned
with the decline of indigenous pig breeds as a loss of genetic diversity and an erosion of
the ability of pigs to adapt to changing climatic conditions. Pork industry experts share
this concern, as indigenous breeds have been the source of characteristics like prolicacy,
adaptability, and avor in modern breeding programs (McOrist and Walters 2009).
Along with changing genetics, the diets of Chinese pigs have changed dramatically.
While traditional pigs ate various plant matter, modern hogs eat modern feed, which has
more protein. In the late 1970s, Chinas leaders supported the development of a milling
industry to provide compound livestock feeds using grains and oilseeds. However, with 21
percent of the worlds population but only 9 percent of arable land, feeding Chinas pigs
without starving Chinas people has required re-routing international trade, investment,
and resource ows to import huge quantities of feed. Recognizing that Chinas soybean
output could not keep up with the massive growth planned for the livestock industry, the
government began to liberalize the soy sector in the 1990s, allowing imports to overtake
both exports and domestic production.
After being a leading soybean exporter for decades, China became the worlds largest
soybean importer in 2003, and by 2014 it imported almost 60 percent of the total global
soybean trade (70 million tonnes) for its livestock feed industry (Oliveira and Schneider
2015; Yan, Chen, and Ku 2016). Maize imports are also rising, and the state increasingly
encourages Chinese agribusiness rms to seek access to land, resources and markets
abroad (Schneider 2014). As a result, large areas of North and South America are now
used to grow feed for Chinas pigs, fuelling the ongoing destruction of the grasslands
of the southern cone of South America and the southern Amazon (Oliveira and Hecht
2018). The impact also extends into the oceans: in 2006 pigs ate about one-fth of the
worldssh meal (Smil 2013, 211). Soybeans have been a key sticking point in the
ongoing USChina trade war from 2018, illustrating the important position of pigs and
pork in matters of contemporary political economy.
A History of Pigs in China 13
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In adopting the science and practice of the global pork industry, China has also taken
on its approach to excrement. Manure has gone from being a valuable fertilizer to a major
pollutant. The massive expansion of Chinas swine herds has led to an explosion of
manure that is no longer wanted because of the ubiquity of chemical fertilizers. Some
of the nearly 5 billion tonnes of manure produced each year ends up in waterways,
causing blue-green algae outbreaks, and making water unusable for many households,
most of them rural. In 2010, the rst national pollution census identied manure from
industrial livestock facilitiesmostly pigs but also chickensas Chinas number-one
source of water pollution. The government is encouraging the pork industry to consoli-
date on the assumption that large-scale, modern facilities are better able to control
their pollution. Increased nes and name and shamecampaigns have driven industrial
pig production away from urban areas toward rural areas, which tend to have less envi-
ronmental monitoring (Lord 2020). Increased enforcement of environmental regulations
has forced hog producers to close or relocate if they lack the capital to pay nes and taxes.
Crisis, Consolidation, and Consumption
From the beginning of the reform era, the government has favored agribusiness
rms known as Dragonhead enterprisesto lead agricultural development and
manage agricultural markets. In exchange for nancial and policy support from the
state, these rmseither state owned or privatehave a double mandate to open agri-
cultural markets and integrate rural producers into agricultural value chains.
Dragonhead-led vertical integration now accounts for more than half of crop, livestock,
and aquaculture production in China. Pork is an example of how vertical integration and
agribusiness development has put Chinese rms like the WH Group and COFCO on a
par with or in the position to overtake world-leading transnational companies (Schneider
2017). In addition to vertical integration, these companies are experimenting with vertical
production. A site being built in Guangxi will raise 30,000 sows and 840,000 piglets annu-
ally in high-rise buildings. A thirteen-story building will be the tallest pig hotelin the
world when it is completed in 2020 (Dooren 2018).
CAFOs are some of the most conducive places on earth for the transfer of inuenzas
and other viruses between animals and humans, a threat to both people and pigs (Borken-
hagen 2019; Wallace 2016). As genetic diversity has narrowed to the point that most of
Chinas pigs belong to the three DLY breeds or their hybrids, their ability to fend off
disease has been drastically compromised. Industrial pig producers are dealing with
this biological reality with antibiotics and increased regulation of the bodies and activities
of workers. Before entering pig barns, workers are sanitized, wrapped in protective gear
(protective for the pigs, not the workers), and often quarantined for days or weeks before
being allowed contact with the improved breedpigs (Blanchette 2015). As elsewhere,
the use of antibiotics by Chinese livestock producers has spawned a generation of
antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing organisms that are found in the soils around large-
scale pig farms, in water and in human guts (Davis 2006; Ji et al. 2012; Luo et al.
2010). Farm managers include subtherapeutic antibiotic doses in feed rations, which
has probably saved some pigs from some diseases but is ineffective against viruses,
which are the most serious threat. This also helps develop antibiotic-resistant diseases
that threaten both pigs and people (Hvistendahl 2012; Luo et al. 2010, 7220).
14 Brian Lander, Mindi Schneider, and Katherine Brunson
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The government is very sensitive to the threat of disease to pigs because it drives up
meat prices and thus the general cost of living. Pork prices skyrocketed after hundreds
of thousands of pigs were killed in the 2006 epidemic of the porcine reproductive and respi-
ratory syndrome virus. The government responded by increasing support for large-scale,
industrialized, and standardized pork production to stabilize the industry and protect
against future price shocks (Wang and Watanabe 2008). These measures successfully
boosted the national swine herd and supported larger-scale, intensied production
(Woolsey and Zhang 2010). Health problems with industrial pigs became public in 2013,
when 16,000 diseased pig carcasses were dumped into a river in Zhejiang and oated
down to Shanghai (Davison 2013). But the ongoing epidemic of the African swine fever
virus is far more severe than any previous crisis, having led to the deaths of well over
200 million pigs in China (USDA 2020). As in earlier crises, the government is promoting
increases in the scale and standardization of production as a solution (FAO 2019).
Of all the issues associated with Chinas industrial pork sector, food safety concerns
receive the most media and government attention (Song, Li, and Zhang 2014). Pork con-
sumers in China are concerned about growth promoter residues, following several high-
prole cases of the growth promoters clenbuterol and ractopamine being found in meat.
Given the poor reputation of Chinese food products in the United States, it is worth
pointing out that the use of these chemicals in meat production is illegal in China, but
they are everyday components of pork production in the United States. This has
proved a sticking point when Chinese corporations have purchased US pork producers
(Schneider and Sharma 2014, 23). Middle-class urban consumers tend to prefer pork
from factory farms or from abroad, which they view as better regulated than backward
small-scale peasant farmers (Barcellos et al. 2013; Ma et al. 2017). But the opposite trend
is also blossoming in alternative food networks,including farmersmarkets,
community-supported agriculture and organic farming, whose customers also cite food
safety as their primary motivation for participation (Shi et al. 2011).
As pigs and pig production in China have changed, so, too, has the meat. For most of
Chinas history, people ate relatively little pork. When they did, they valued its high fat
content and its lard. Industrial pork has become lean meat because of the much
higher proportion of protein in commercial grain and oilseed-based feed mixes, com-
bined with the characteristics of the industrial breeds. This lean meat is not the meat
that enlivens Chinese culinary traditions. It does not meet the taste preferences of
middle-aged and older Chinese people who have memories of pre-reform pork. Still,
the market for pork continues to grow and consumption continues to rise. Processed
and packaged pork products are the fastest-growing market segments. And while
Chinas pork has become leaner, Chinas people have not. There are now more obese
and overweight people in China than in any other nation in the world (Di Cesare et al.
2016). Pork is certainly not the only culprit, but it is an important component of changing
eating habits that have led to the emergence of diet-related diseases and causes of death.
The long and complex relationship between people and pigs in China in many ways
exemplies the environmental history of humanity in the agricultural era. As humans
A History of Pigs in China 15
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domesticated more and more species, we were able to replace natural ecosystems with
ones composed of species that beneted us, a process that has been carried further in
China than almost anywhere else on earth. Humans and associated species have
become one of the main forces affecting the earths biosphere, and increasingly its
climate. The relationship between pigs and people that was once benecial for both
now has signicant downsides for both species.
Over the last nine thousand years, people in China domesticated pigs, kept them
near their households as waste processors and sources of manure, and ate their meat
at times of feasting or celebration. However, the relationship between pigs and
humans has changed fundamentally in the last few decades as industrialized pork produc-
tion has replaced household pig raising. A long-term perspective on the environmental
history of pigs in China reveals how differentand damagingmodern pig raising prac-
tices are from our earlier history of interactions with pigs.
While increased availability of meat has improved the health of people in China over
the past generation, feeding soybeans to pigs is an extremely inefcient way to produce
food. It may not be literally unsustainable to replace much of South Americas forests and
grasslands with farms to feed more pigs, but it is hard to justify when humans could
subsist on a fraction of the soy they produce to feed livestock. Within China, the
massive scale of meat production has serious consequences for humans. Our similar phys-
iologies and the fact that the inuenza virus and various other diseases can spread
between pigs and people means that high concentrations of pigs are perfect sites for
the spread of new viruses to humans. Moreover, the heavy use of antibiotics risks creating
global diseases that are impervious to existing medicines. The massive quantities of
manure produced by industrial pig farms not only constitute severe pollution in them-
selves, they also produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. For these and other
reasons, high consumption of red meat is globally unsustainable (Springmann et al.
2018). The Chinese tradition of treating pork as a luxury food eaten only on special
occasions was probably the right idea.
We would like to thank Stewart Cole, Madelaine Drohan, Enno Giele, David Lord,
Max Price, and the Science, Technology, Environment and Medicine group of the Brown
University History Department for their comments on this article. Katherine Brunson
would like to thank the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World
and the Brown University Center for Computational Molecular Biology. Mindi Schneider
is grateful to the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social
Sciences (NIAS-KNAW) for fellowship support during the writing of this article.
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... In China, the domestication of pigs can trace back to as early as 9000 years ago [5]. Traditionally, most households in China raise a few pigs and slaughter them for important ceremonies such as weddings and the Spring Festival [6]. In China, Pig breeding by countless farmers over millennia led to the creation of a wide range of indigenous pig breeds [6], and pork from indigenous pigs served as an important ingredient for delicious Chinese food. ...
... Traditionally, most households in China raise a few pigs and slaughter them for important ceremonies such as weddings and the Spring Festival [6]. In China, Pig breeding by countless farmers over millennia led to the creation of a wide range of indigenous pig breeds [6], and pork from indigenous pigs served as an important ingredient for delicious Chinese food. Over the past decades, with the industrialization of pig farming, an increasing amount of pork in China has been supplied by large-scale livestock companies, where most pigs raised are industrial hog breeds (i.e., Yorkshire). ...
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This research was conducted to study the effects of dietary inclusion of mulberry leaf powder (MLP) on growth performance, meat quality, antioxidant activity, and carcass traits of Tibetan pigs. Eighteen Tibetan pigs (33.8 ± 1.1 kg) were assigned to two treatment groups randomly and received either the control diet (CON) or a basal diet containing 8% MLP (MLP) for two months. After the two-month feeding trial, the MLP group showed lower backfat thickness while a higher lean percentage. Compared with CON pigs, MLP pigs had higher serum CAT activity. In addition, dietary MLP supplementation significantly decreased the muscle shear force. Muscle fiber morphology analysis showed that MLP pigs had larger muscle fiber density while smaller muscle fiber cross-sectional area. Up-regulated gene expression of myosin heavy chain (MyHC)IIa was also observed in MLP pigs. These results indicate that the enhanced antioxidant activity and altered muscle fiber type and morphology appeared to contribute to the improvement of meat quality in Tibetan pigs fed diets containing MLP.
... Pigs can eat leaves and vines, which occur as crop by-products in fields and gardens, and scavenge for the waste, leftover food, and feces dumped in a village. It is also known from historical documents and pottery miniatures that pig pens were attached to human toilets in historical China, where pigs were reared on human feces and leftovers (Nemeth, 1998;Liu and Jones, 2016;Lander et al., 2020). The small pig pens joined with houses are considered a residential form optimized for small-scale intensive pig husbandry by the household units. ...
... China is regarded as one of the original locations of pig domestication worldwide (Lander et al., 2020). In Northern China, where foxtail and broomcorn millets were the dominant crops, S. scrofa remains at the Jiahu site (7000-5700 cal BC) in Henan Province, providing the oldest morphological evidence of domestication (Cucchi et al., 2011; Table 1). ...
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The chemical analysis of animal bones from ancient sites has become a common approach in archeological research investigating animal utilization and domestication by past humans. Although several chemical indicators have been used to determine pig management practices in ancient societies, one indicator that can clarify human-animal relationships in the early stages of domestication is the change in the animal’s diet from its wild diet, which can be detected using isotope analysis of its bones. Omnivores, such as boars, are assumed to have shared foods with humans as their interaction increased, and a shift in the isotopic (carbon and nitrogen) compositions of their bone collagen toward humans are considered evidence of domestication. This approach has found evidence of early-stage pig management with human leftovers and feces in prehistoric East Asia, including in Neolithic China, Korea and Japan. However, in the Near East, one of the origins of animal domestication, even individual animals considered to be domesticated pigs according to zooarcheological data (such as morphological characteristics and mortality patterns) display isotopic compositions of bulk collagen that differ from those of humans but are close to those of herbivores. This result indicates that these pigs were fed special foods, such as legumes, rather than human leftovers or feces. However, the carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions of the bulk collagen of herbivores found at the same sites showed huge variations, so the interpretation of the pigs’ diet is consequently unclear. In this study, a compound-specific nitrogen isotope analysis was used to clarify the pig diet and management strategies unique to the Neolithic Near East, Turkey and Syria, together with a carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of bulk collagen. This study examines the diversity of pig management techniques in early agricultural societies and their relationship with the availability of other domestic animals and farming practices.
... Pigs became domesticated because they were attracted to human settlements by the availability of edible waste [118]. Humans took advantage of the ability of pigs to convert waste food into high quality protein, and the result was a symbiotic relationship in which nothing was wasted. ...
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African swine fever (ASF) in domestic pigs has, since its discovery in Africa more than a century ago, been associated with subsistence pig keeping with low levels of biosecurity. Likewise, smallholder and backyard pig farming in resource-limited settings have been notably affected during the ongoing epidemic in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Caribbean regions. Many challenges to managing ASF in such settings have been identified in the ongoing as well as previous epidemics. Consistent implementation of biosecurity at all nodes in the value chain remains most important for controlling and preventing ASF. Recent research from Asia, Africa, and Europe has provided science-based information that can be of value in overcoming some of the hurdles faced for implementing biosecurity in resource-limited contexts. In this narrative review we examine a selection of these studies elucidating innovative solutions such as shorter boiling times for inactivating ASF virus in swill, participatory planning of interventions for risk mitigation for ASF, better understanding of smallholder pig-keeper perceptions and constraints, modified culling, and safe alternatives for disposal of carcasses of pigs that have died of ASF. The aim of the review is to increase acceptance and implementation of science-based approaches that increase the feasibility of managing, and the possibility to prevent, ASF in resource-limited settings. This could contribute to protecting hundreds of thousands of livelihoods that depend upon pigs and enable small-scale pig production to reach its full potential for poverty alleviation and food security.
... Until the 1960s, pig farming was mainly based on several traditional family and small-scale farming systems, which typically consisted of 4000 m 2 of pasture for about 20 pigs. However, in the second half of the 20th century, this farming style became intensive, leading to a large increase in pig production [84]. Today, the largest pig production company in the world is located in China, raising 1.1 million breeding pig sows [79], while the main pig-exporting European countries are the Netherlands and Denmark, while Canada exports to the United States. ...
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Due to environmental and human factors, there is a growing amount of agri-food waste worldwide. The European Commission is incentivizing a zero-waste policy by 2025, pushing to find a “second life” for at least the avoidable ones. In this review, after summarizing the nutritional values of pork and the importance of its inclusion in human diet, a phylogenetic analysis was conducted to investigate potential differences in the structure and activity of HMGCR, which is a key enzyme in cholesterol metabolism. In addition, a bibliometric analysis combined with visual and meta-analytical studies on 1047 scientific articles was conducted to understand whether the inclusion of agro-food waste could affect the growth performance of pigs and reduce cholesterol levels in pork. Although some critical issues were highlighted, the overall data suggest a modern and positive interest in the reuse of agri-food waste as swine feed. However, although interesting and promising results have been reported in several experimental trials, further investigation is needed, since animal health and meat quality are often given marginal consideration.
... New hybrid seeds must be purchased at the start of each planting season and inputs of inorganic fertilizer are required to realize their high yield potential. The growth of hybrid maize cultivation in Asia has been linked to demand for maize, a key animal feed ingredient, due to rising incomes and associated demand for meat, and the intensification and commoditization of pig and poultry farming (Erenstein, 2010;Lander et al., 2020). ...
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Hybrid maize farming has boomed across upland Southeast Asia in the past three decades. Recent studies suggest that the boom has resulted in diverse outcomes across countries. In Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, the introduction of hybrid maize has often initially been linked to rising incomes and living standards, with little loss or concentration of landholdings. In contrast, recent studies from Myanmar argue that exploitative trader-farmer credit relations are driving rapid agrarian differentiation and dispossession. We analyze patterns of agrarian change associated with hybrid maize farming in southern Shan State, Myanmar, using data from a representative survey of 1562 rural households. Widespread farmer engagement in maize cultivation has contributed to deepening petty commodity production and some economic differentiation, but with little dispossession or negative impacts on food security. Credit provision by traders may benefit some larger farmers but does not actively penalize smaller producers. Hybrid maize is a ‘moderate risk, moderate reward’ crop that households integrate strategically into a broader patchwork of subsistence farming, higher risk cash crop production, and a growing mix of off-farm activities. Employment in non-farm enterprises, salaried work, and migration have significant potential to modify trajectories of differentiation associated with agriculture.
... Examples elsewhere (Madgwick et al. 2019) draw our attention to the presence of exotic pigs that would not have easily traveled long distances in prehistoric times. This also highlights the particularity of the place and the special role of pigs in social events Lander et al. 2020). The presence of ritual items, outsider, objects of foreign styles, and exotic pig furthers the possibility that Xinyicun may have been a place of special meaning. ...
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In this study, we conducted carbon, strontium, and oxygen isotope analyses on tooth enamel from human and pig remains that were excavated from the Chengdu Plain and its western highlands in Sichuan to investigate the dietary patterns of the peoples and possible population movements in these areas. The analyses of carbon isotope showed that the dietary patterns in these areas support our previous understanding that, while rice was an important food source for the peoples on the Chengdu Plain, millets played a crucial role at the mountainous sites. Moreover, the same dietary patterns in these two regions lasted from the late Neolithic Age to at least the Bronze Age. The result of strontium analyses suggests that the bioavailable strontium baseline of the Chengdu Plain is 0.71197–0.71400. Based on this strontium ratio and δ¹³C value ranges derived in this study, several unusual cases were identified. We also note an interesting difference in the oxygen isotope values between the late Neolithic and the early Bronze Age sites, which we suspect to be related to climate change in around 2000 BC. This finding, however, requires more data for verification. Overall, this is the first time isotopic analysis was used to test human and faunal remains in a more extensive manner and to enhance our understanding of the paleodietary patterns, human dynamics, and climatic changes in ancient Sichuan. The results provide information about the sites when other sources of evidence are lacking and suggest a baseline for future comparisons.
... The pig has traveled from being an important and integrated part of many Chinese households to becoming commodified and industrialized particularly after Deng Xiaoping's "Reform and Opening" in 1978 (see Lander et al. 2020; Korsnes and Liu, this volume). The pork industry has received massive governmental support, particularly through finance subsidies and investments, which in turn has been instrumental in reducing smallholder producers from 74 percent to 37 percent of production between 2000 and 2010 (Howard 2019). ...
A focus on zoonotic urbanisation challenges existing conceptions of global urbanism. In this article I consider how a modified urban political ecology framework might help to illuminate emerging landscapes of epidemiological risk. I show how a multi-scalar perspective on urban epidemiology, including the impact of colonialism, global capitalism, and changing relations with non-human others, unsettles existing analytical approaches. I contrast resilience-oriented public health paradigms, focused on the malleability of nature, with a historically grounded set of insights into global environmental change. I suggest that the conceptual field of zoonotic urbanisation provides an analytical entry point for understanding an emergent ‘triple crisis’ spanning climate change, biodiversity loss, and global health threats.
This study analyzes the nitrogen isotope composition of individual amino acids in collagen extracted from human bone samples from the Gaoshan, Yingpanshan, and Xinyicun sites in Sichuan, where the isotope baseline is unavailable or incomparable with the isotopic data derived from human remains. It aims to understand the food compositions of the inhabitants at these sites, spanning the period from the late Neolithic to the middle Bronze Age, during which time agriculture and domestication of animals were introduced to the region and became increasingly important. The δ15N values of two amino acids, phenylalanine (δ15NPhe) and glutamic acid (δ15NGlu), indicates that the peoples on the Chengdu Plain mainly consumed terrestrial foods. The contribution of aquatic resources to their diet was limited. A possible explanation for the low dependence on aquatic foods is that the developed agriculture and domestication of animals offered sufficient foods. Such subsistence economies and dietary patterns were shaped in the early Baodun period (ca. 2500‐2000 BC) at the latest and did not seem to change when transiting to the Bronze Age. This study also assesses the significance of these subsistence practices in supporting the social development of the Chengdu Plain.
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В монографии представлены материалы, отражающие процесс формирования неолита и земледелия в Китае. В первой главе рассматриваются особенности эпохи, переходной от палеолита к неолиту, много внимания уделено проблемам, связанным с установлением хронологии древнейшей керамики Китая. В главе, посвященной раннему неолиту, дается обзор раннеземледельческих культур Китая, их жилищ, поселений, погребальных и иных обрядов, керамической посуды и прочего инвентаря. В отдельной главе подробно рассматриваются обстоятельства и особенности формирования земледелия в Китае, анализируются текущие источники, а также сложившиеся подходы к их пониманию и интерпретации. Наконец, в последней главе разбираются возможные связи раннеземледельческих культур Китая с ранними земледельцами Западной Евразии и культурой дземон Японских островов.
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The multifaceted behavioral and ecological flexibility of pigs and wild boar (Sus scrofa) makes study of their domestication both complex and of broad anthropological significance. While recognizing contextual contingency, we propose several “pathways” to pig domestication. We also highlight the diversity of pig management practices. This diversity complicates zooarchaeological detection of management techniques employed by humans in the early steps of domestication, and we stress the need for multiple lines of evidence. Drawing together the evidence, we review early Holocene human–Sus relations in Japan, Cyprus, northern Mesopotamia, and China. Independent pig domestication occurred in northern Mesopotamia by c. 7500 cal. BC and China by c. 6000 cal. BC. In northern Mesopotamia pig domestication followed a combined “commensal and prey” pathway that evolved into loose “extensive” husbandry that persisted as the dominant form of pig management for several millennia. There are not yet enough zooarchaeological data to speculate on the early stages of pig domestication in China, but once that process began, it involved more intensive management (relying on pens and fodder), leading to more rapid selection for phenotypes associated with domestication. Finally, pig domestication “failed” to take off in Japan. We suggest this was related to a number of factors including the lack of domestic crops and, potentially, cultural barriers to conceiving animals as property.
This chapter starts from the premise that technologies of knowing the environment are molded by broader political and societal contexts. Just as “science” is never singular, but rather an ever-changing product of personal commitments, institutional struggles, and historical legacies, environmental research, data, and methods that are never dryly environmental. It focuses on the production of environmental knowledge as an explicitly political process, one that is in constant conversation with institutional, ideological, and economic forces. Examining environmental knowledge production is important because China's green dream reaches the population unevenly and builds on inequalities to realize itself. The chapter identifies key parameters that regulate rural-environmental research. These include pressures to prioritize economic growth over environmental protection, the commercialization of academia, governmental controls of what is considered acceptable or unacceptable research, as well as limitations on fieldwork access. The chapter also details how economic and political parameters bound environmental research in specific ways.