Potato chips: No pig can eat just one

WOOSTER, Ohio – Hog producers seeking a cheaper, alternative feed to corn need look no further than their grocer’s shelves. Two Ohio State Agricultural Technical Institute researchers found that it doesn’t matter if it’s barbecue, sour cream and onion, or plain – potato chips are the snack of choice for pigs.

And not only is the wholesale price for potato chip scraps cheaper than corn, but the chips provide the pigs with a higher energy diet. Sha Rahnema and Ronald Borton have found that consistently replacing 12.5 percent of the corn feed with potato chip scraps during the nursery, growing and finishing stages of pigs provides optimum performance in dry matter intake, average daily weight gain and the number of days required for pigs to reach market weight.

Making weight.

The finding is the latest in a series of studies since 1995 focusing on the effect consuming potato chip scraps has on pigs. Previous studies showed that up to 25 percent of a pig’s diet may include potato chip scraps, but not with optimum benefits. Pigs eating a diet of 20 percent to 25 percent potato chips during growing and finishing stages took longer to reach market weight.

Studies revealed potato chips had the most positive effect on nursery pigs.

The purpose of the current research was to determine the effect of varying the level of potato chip scraps during the nursery, growing and finishing stages of pigs, while maintaining control at a continuous potato chip diet of 12.5 percent throughout all three stages of growth.

“Increasing or decreasing the levels during the various growth stages seemed to have no effect at all over the continuous feeding of the 12.5 percent diet,” Rahnema said.

He found that varying the diet during the growth stages had less impact on performance than feeding the pigs a continuous 12.5 percent diet of chips. The diet variation reduced overall intake and resulted in a longer time for pigs to reach market weight.

“Chips are higher in energy than corn, so the pigs would eat less at the growing and finishing phases, ultimately gaining less weight and taking longer to reach market weight,” Rahnema said.

Dirt cheap.

By price comparison, potato chip scraps run $6 to $7.50 a ton, while corn currently costs more than $75 a ton.

So how would a pork chop taste after a pig has been munching on jalapeno-flavored or vinegar-flavored chips? A taste-testing panel couldn’t tell the difference, Rahnema said.

“In fact, the panel agreed that in one instance, the pork from the chip-fed pig was juicier and tasted better,” he said.

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