The major difference, the researchers said, is while pigs in the wild spend much time searching for food and eat little and often, the preferred feeding regime for conventionally raised pigs is three meals a day.
"The natural feeding behavior of pigs is searching for feed by rooting activities throughout the day; self-feeding pigs randomly space their activities and generally consume between 10 and 12 meals in an average day," said Eva Persson of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. "By replicating this pattern in conventional indoor kept pigs, we had hoped they would fare better than those fed the traditional three meals."
All 360 pigs in the study received the same amount of liquid feed, divided into either three or nine daily meals. The scientists discovered feeding the pigs in a more "natural" manner did not result in a better outcome. In fact, the pigs fed three times daily gained more than 100 grams (0.22 pounds) per day than the pigs fed nine times daily.
The study is detailed in the online journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica.