This is pig farming in China, where agricultural land is scarce, food production is lagging and pork supply is a strategic imperative.
Inside the hulking 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 young hogs.
Feed is carried on a conveyor belt to the top floor, where it’s collected in giant tanks that deliver more than one 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, located on the outskirts of Ezhou, a city on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, is being 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 later this year, it is expected to raise 1.2 million pigs annually.
China has had a long love affair with pigs. For decades, many rural Chinese households raised backyard pigs, considered valuable livestock as not only a source of meat but also manure. Pigs also hold cultural significance as a symbol of prosperity because, historically, pork was served only on special occasions.