CHAMPAIGN, Ill., (WCIA) — Pigs at one Champaign farm are now eating like they never have before.
Thanks to Marcus Higgins, the manager at Panera Bread on Mattis and Kirby, they are working together to reduce food waste. He was concerned about the amount of waste at his restaurant and contacted Ann Swanson, the director of Hendrick House Farm.
Swanson rescued her two pigs Jude and FreeBee, from a slaughterhouse four years ago. They have grown from small little pigs to 600 pound giants.
She said she was more than enthusiastic about accepting the food waste, especially with grain prices rising. Before this partnership, she spent $127 on grain every two weeks. Now, Panera drops off scraps three times a week and grain has only become a supplemental part of their diet.
“It’s so exciting to have this initiative happening at the farm and being the recipient of all of these wonderful food scraps,” Swanson said.
The pigs go through one large container of fruits and vegetables a day. Their favorites are pineapples and apples. They don’t even touch the onions! Swanson said this diet also helps the pigs keep their weight down. Since they are rescue pigs and will not be slaughtered, she works to keep them at a lower weight.
Swanson also uses them on the teaching side of her farm when kids come and visit on field trips. They are partnered with Champaign-Urbana School Foundation.
“We teach the children where animals rule on the farm, what animals do for the farm like tilling and composting and fertilizing the ground. We also teach them about where their food comes from,” she said.
Swanson hopes teaching these kids about animals will help them learn to pay it forward. She also hopes other restaurants start to contact other Central Illinois farms about food waste so other farmers can put it to use, instead of watching it dump into a landfill.