Decorated pig farms make happier pigs, which makes for better quality pork, according to the farmer. (Photo/CNS)
A group of about 600 uniform houses sit on the banks of the Yellow river beside a cluster of banyan trees in a remote township in the northwest corner of Jiangsu province. At first glance, they look like rural villas. However, in May, an agricultural official told the Chinanews online service that the houses are actually the residences of pigs and are designed to provide a friendly environment for the animals. Having the pigs in a good mood is believed to improve the quality of their meat.
"These are not villas, they're model breeding zones, as part of a project to develop breeding techniques for organic pigs. Locals call these homes a paradise for pigs," said Hu Juchun, director of the Suining County Agricultural Committee.
In February, a township in the county launched a comprehensive project to develop the old channels of the Yellow river, which stretch across an area of 20,000-30,000 acres, into an agriculture and agri-tourism base.
As part of the project, hundreds of thousands of acres with banyan-tree cover were transformed into pig farms.
The idea of building houses for pigs originated from the online game Happy Farm, said Chen Yiqing, owner of the agricultural tourism garden. He began preparatory work for the project in February and has completed construction of more than 500 eco-friendly pig cottages with uniform design and equipment.
Chen said they plan to build about 2,500 such "luxury houses."
A tract of land covered with a thick black powder was seen in the pig pen, with more than 10 newborn piglets lying on it.
Chen explained that the black powder contained wheat bran, rice husk and sawdust, and had not been wiped away because it was a natural fermentation bed.
The bed releases beneficial bacteria, which can break down a pig's excreta. Raising pigs using this method cuts down waste to zero, is eco-friendly and saves human effort. In addition, the presence of the bacteria allows farmers to stop giving pigs antibiotics, addressing consumers' worries about antibiotic residue in pork.
"In the beginning, when I spent 8,000 yuan (US$1,250) to build a house, some residents in the village did not understand why I would spend so much money to build a mansion for pigs," Chen said.
"The pigsty is equipped with natural fermentation beds and an air conditioner, which controls temperature, humidity and moisture," Chen noted, adding that although his investment has been huge, the equipment benefits the pigs' growth.
In addition to using biological fermentation beds, the eco-friendly farm can be used for large-scale bio-gas projects, using pig manure for power. The bio-gas and the bio-gas byproducts can be used to cultivate flowers and organic vegetables.