China’s towering ‘hog hotels’ bid to beat swine fever

China’s towering ‘hog hotels’ bid to beat swine fever

China has taken biosecurity to new heights at a 13-storey pig hotel designed to prevent outbreaks of diseases such as African swine fever.

Pork is the most popular meat in China, and this state-of-the-art approach is designed to shield the animals from viruses, including swine fever, that devastated the country’s pig herd in the two years before the outbreak of Covid-19.

One such “hog hotel” in southern China is home to more than 10,000 pigs and is complete with restricted access, security cameras, in-house veterinary services and carefully prepared meals.

The giant vertical farms are being built by companies, including Muyuan Foods and New Hope Group, emulating strict controls major suppliers in other countries have used to prevent outbreaks of the devastating disease.

A huge outbreak of African swine fever in China in 2018 wiped out around half the nation’s herd of more than 400 million pigs within a year— leading to rocketing prices and unprecedented imports.

‘The space is available’

That saw strict protocols brought in, with staff at the pig hotels required to shower and change their clothes on entering and exiting the facility and even leave their watches outside.

Rupert Claxton, UK-based meat director at consultant Gira, said: “In Europe and the US there are restrictions on how big we can make a pig farm because people just object — they don’t want to live next to these huge sites. In China, that doesn’t seem to be the case. If it’s decided that a pig farm is needed, then the space is available.”

The New Hope Group recently completed three five-storey buildings across an area the size of 20 football fields, or 140,000 square meters, in Beijing’s Pinggu district.

The facility, equipped with robots that monitors animals for fever, air filtration, automatic feeding and disinfection systems, can be smelled from about a kilometer away and will eventually produce 120,000 pigs a year.

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