Hog heaven? More pigs live in Iowa than people

Andrew, 8, and his father Randall Martin (left) wrangle feeder pigs into a pen at a finishing barn of farmer Steve Berge
Andrew, 8, and his father Randall Martin (left) wrangle feeder pigs into a pen at a finishing barn of farmer Steve Berger in rural Wellman, Iowa, on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Father and son use the hollow toy bats to rap on the walls, floor and an occasional swat on the backside to direct the animals into the pens. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Here’s a factoid you can use to impress your friends: Iowa has more pigs than people.

In fact, for every man, woman and child in Iowa, there are nearly eight pigs. It’s a good thing the pigs don’t decide to rebel because they definitely have the upper hand — or hoof.

Pork, which includes pork chops and roasts, as well as ham, bacon and pepperoni, comes from pigs. Because of all those pigs raised in Iowa, our state is the No. 1 pork-producing state in the country. Other states that produce a lot of pork include North Carolina and Minnesota.

But back to Iowa.

On March 1, Iowa had 24.6 million hogs and pigs on Iowa farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This was nearly one-third of the 77.6 million hogs and pigs in the whole United States at that time.

Iowa counties that raise the highest number of pigs include Washington, Sioux, Lyon, Hamilton (get it? “Ham”-ilton) and Plymouth.

Pigs eat a lot of food, mostly corn and soybeans, the Iowa Pork Producers Association reports.

From the time they are weaned from their mothers until they reach 270 pounds, each pig eats about 12 bushels, or 670 pounds, of corn and 2.5 bushels, or 150 pounds, of soybeans. Wow, they sure are pigs!

Raising pigs brings a lot of benefits to Iowa, including jobs for people who feed and take care of pigs, transport pigs and build materials used for confinement buildings. When Iowa sells its pork products — including to foreign countries — that brings money into the state.

But raising so many pigs in Iowa also brings some challenges.

Like, what do you do with all their poop? If they’re eating that much corn and beans, they generate a lot of waste and it has to go somewhere. Many pork producers spread liquid manure on nearby farm fields because it acts as a fertilizer to help corn and beans grow. But if you use too much, the manure can run into streams and rivers and cause water pollution.


Pig poop also doesn’t smell very good and many Iowans don’t want to live near large pig farms because of the smell.

Iowans are trying to find a way to raise pigs while protecting water and air quality. So think about that when you’re eating your next breaded pork tenderloin!


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