PHILADELPHIA -- New Jersey pigs are getting fat on takeout food from Philadelphia.
According to city officials, 17 pig farmers in Gloucester County are paid $1.9 million each year to collect some 30,000 tons of table scraps annually from the streets of Philadelphia.
It would cost more than twice that much to haul the scraps to a landfill.
Streets Department supervisor Roger Lansbury said Philadelphia is the only city in the country where leftovers are picked up at curbside and fed to livestock.
For more than 60 years, thousands of Philadelphians have dumped their table scraps in galvanized buckets that are placed by the street twice each week. The farmers send trucks to collect the scraps from about three-fourths of the city.
The scraps are mixed with waste from area food processors and fed to the pigs.
Bob Shisler, who raised hogs on a farm about 18 miles from Philadelphia in Deptford, said his 3,500 pigs eat the slop continously, consuming up to 20 tons a day. Shisler said the scraps, as required by law, are boiled in steam for half an hour before being served to prevent trichinosis and other swine diseases.
In the days before home garbage disposals, pre-packaged foods and composting, Philadelphia shipped about 100,000 tons of leftovers to New Jersey, Lansbury said.
But as the supply of scraps has diminished, so has the demand. Shisler said that development over the past few decades has forced many hog farmers out of business. In the Deptford area, where once there were more than 100 hog farms, today there are about two dozen, Shisler said.