Eating like a pig is healthy

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — Research shows that when pigs are fed a typical human diet that lacks balanced protein they do poorly.

“In fact, pigs fed this diet were stunted and exhibited extra intramuscular fat compared to pigs fed a typical pig diet,” said Bob Thaler, Professor & SDSU Extension Swine Specialist.

The scientist behind this research, Eric Berg, professor of meat science from North Dakota State University, shared what he learned with South Dakotans early this spring during a presentation, Eating Like a Pig: The Role of Meat in the Human Diet. His talk was sponsored by the SDSU Swine Club as part of South Dakota State University Speakers series.

“We’ve known for 100 years that it is not just protein that’s important, but the amino acids that make up the protein,” Berg said. “Corn can be high in protein, but it is low in availability of essential amino acids. We would never just feed corn to pigs, but balance their diet with a legume like soybeans to balance essential amino acids and then add vitamins and minerals.”

Berg is widely recognized for his meat research, which spans 26 years of work. Last year he was asked to testify at hearings for the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory committee at the National Institute of Health.

Berg’s presentation shared how the USDA Food Pyramid was developed, limitations in human nutrition research, how the U.S. diet has evolved throughout the years, and how those changes have significant implications on human health.

“Berg also emphasized the importance of eating a diet balanced in all the essential food groups,” Thaler said. “His research on human health utilized pigs as a model since pigs and people are omnivores, and their anatomy and physiology are very similar.”

Unfortunately, human nutrition lags behind animal nutrition. “We snack ourselves into non-nutrition,” Berg says. “We may have a whole-grain bagel for breakfast and then snack on something else for lunch. As a result, our diet is out of balance.”

According to Berg, the biggest source of balanced protein is meat, including red and processed meat. All the essential amino acids are contained in a serving of meat.

Today, everyone can enjoy Berg’s dynamic presentation by visiting the video on the iGrow YouTube channel at