When most people think of raising pigs they probably imagine, humorously, an animal that is something like a living garbage disposal; an animal that eats absolutely anything!
And, to some extent, this is true; pigs are omnivores and will eat a wide variety of food. However, there are some things that pigs can eat safely and others that they cannot.
Though stereotyped as “one-track” eaters, pigs need a surprisingly varied diet in order to be healthy and thrive.
Their nutritional requirements are pretty broad, and if farmers want their livestock to reach a suitable finishing weight as quickly as possible managing their herd’s diet must be a priority.
Easier said than done when you won’t always have access to the usual things they are used to eating!
To help with this, below is a list of 36 things pigs can safely eat, and 13 things they cannot. Using the guidelines on this list you will always be able to come up with tasty, nutritious food that your pigs will love.
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What are the Nutritional Requirements of Pigs?
In the wild or on the farm, pigs will forage for food, eating anything they can find that meets their nutritional requirements. These include the same macronutrients that you and I (and all mammals!) require.
Pigs need carbohydrates for energy, protein for the growth and development of muscle, and fat, a good source of stored energy and useful nutrients that also helps them to absorb certain vitamins and minerals.
But while a pig in the wild will be forced to eat anything that meets their nutritional requirements, no matter how dodgy, on a commercial farm domestic pigs don’t have that problem.
Domestic pigs must rely on their keepers for food, but usually enjoy a diet that is much safer and better for them.
To ensure they get the nutrients they need, pigs require a varied diet that includes different types of food.
In general, pigs need about 5-8% of their body weight in food each day in order to grow enough to reach a good slaughtering weight.
This means that if your pig weighs 100 pounds, it would need to eat about 5-8 pounds of food per day. This varies, of course, depending on the age and species of the pig.
They that are just hanging out, living on your homestead, don’t need as much if you aren’t trying to get a good return on your pig’s meat.
Pigs are Omnivores
Pigs are omnivores, which means that they will eat both plants and animals, and a great variety of both!
This is good news for homesteaders, as it means you should always have something on hand that your pigs can eat; actually, most things you would normally eat, your pigs can too!
Of course, there are some things that you shouldn’t feed pigs because they are dangerous or unhealthy for them. These harmful items will be discussed in the following sections, too.
But more to the point this informs us of what a pig’s diet should be: varied! Pigs need quality nutrition, just like we do, and the best way to get it is through a healthy diet of different kinds of food.
Pigs can live well on a single food source if that food is nutritionally complete, but rounding out their diet with wholesome foods helps to ensure they stay healthy and grow. The items on the list below will help them do just that.
39 Things Pigs Can Eat
Pigs love to eat! That’s pretty obvious, but that doesn’t mean you can throw anything at them.
Pigs enjoy things like vegetables (cucumbers, corn, beans, cooked potatoes, beets), root veggies, fruits (cherries, peaches), berries, mushrooms, and more.
Here’s a more extensive list just below…
Pigs can just about any and all kinds of grain, and it is a staple item that will provide them with vitamins, minerals, and plenty of calories.
Also important for farmers, it tends to be cheap! Although grains don’t have everything a pig needs, they are reliable mainstays in the diet of any herd.
Corn is one of the standout items in a pig’s diet, and is included in almost every commercial food mix you can find. It provides plenty of energy and some essential vitamins and minerals, making it an ideal food for pigs.
However, not all pigs can eat corn. In fact, some farmers believe that feeding corn to pigs can actually be harmful. This is because corn is a high-starch food, and pigs can’t digest it as easily as other animals.
If you do decide to feed corn to your pigs, make sure to do so in moderation and make sure they get other things to eat.
Soybeans are another veggie commonly associated with feeding pigs and are one of the most reliable sources of protein for them.
However, like corn, soybeans can be difficult for some pigs to digest. This is less of a concern with soybeans that are incorporated into pig feed versus whole, but still something owners should keep in mind.
Alfalfa is a type of forage that is commonly used to feed pigs, either whole or as a component in hay, haylage, or feed. It is high in fiber and nutrients and can be a good addition to the diet of any pig.
However, like many grains alfalfa should only be fed in moderation, as it can cause digestive issues if pigs eat too much of it.
That being said, it is a far safer option for pigs than it is for ruminants like goats and sheep, which can easily fall victim to bloat from eating too much.
It seems like all animals love oats. I know people do! All kidding aside, oats are a highly nutritious cereal grain that can give pigs a big boost of energy and plenty of nutrition.
It is also tasty and easy for them to digest in its various forms. Oatmeal, rolled oats and even oat bran are all great options for pigs.
Cooked or raw, rice is a good bulking feed for pigs. Contrary to urban legends, it won’t make the stomachs of pigs explode (though feeding them uncooked rice on a regular basis isn’t advised).
Rice is also a good source of essential nutrients, particularly minerals, making it a valuable addition to any pig’s diet. White, brown, red, or whole, pigs can have it all.
Pork is so good in beans, it makes sense that we can feed it to pigs. Right? Right!
Beans, including kidney, black, pinto, and navy are all good options for feeding pigs and contain abundant vitamins and minerals along with a good shot of protein.
However, you must only ever feed fully cooked beans to pigs, as raw beans can contain toxins that can make them terribly sick or even kill them.
Also, common sense tells us that beans will definitely increase the flatulence output of your pigs. That part is true, sadly!
8. Pig Feed
Many of the above items, particularly corn and other grains, are commonly used to make pig feed. Feed is often used as a “complete” diet for pigs that contains all the nutrients they need to stay healthy and thrive.
However, as with any other food, you should always check the ingredient list to make sure there aren’t any ingredients that could potentially harm your pigs, or ones that they need and are conspicuously absent.
While most commercial feeds are safe, it’s always better to be safe and do your diligence. You can rely on pig feed as the primary staple or “go-to” option for feeding your herd.
Believe it or not, pigs do a little grazing and browsing of their own. If you have a pasture or even just some grassy area for them to roam, they will likely eat from it. Grasses, weeds, bugs, and more are all on the menu.
While this won’t provide most breeds of pigs with all the nutrients they need, it can be a good supplement to their diet and help keep them healthy and active.
And there are some breeds that do quite well living on pasturage. Just be sure that the plants growing in the area are safe for pigs, as they might accidentally eat toxic ones.
Pretty much every animal loves a sweet, crisp apple and pigs are no exception. Packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, apples make a great snack for pigs young and old.
They will certainly love you. Just be sure to remove the seeds and stem before feeding them to your pigs, as both can be dangerous if consumed. The seeds can turn to cyanide hydrogen gas when digested, so that is bad news!
Like apples, pigs will love to chow down on a juicy pear, and pears also have a solid nutritional profile.
Pears are especially good for pigs that are trying to put on weight, as they are higher in calories than other fruits. As with apples, however, be sure to remove the seeds and stem before feeding them to your pigs.
These little red berries are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making them a great snack for pigs.
Strawberries are lower in sugar than other fruits, so they are a good option for pigs that are trying to maintain or lose weight, or control their sugar intake. Truly a wonderful snack for your herd.
As always, remove the stem or any woody parts before feeding strawberries to your pigs.
Blueberries are another excellent fruit option for pigs, as they are also packed with nutrients and are known for excellent antioxidant properties. Blueberries are a good source of fiber, which can help pigs regulate their digestion.
As with other fruits, mind the quantity and remove the stems and branches before feeding wild-harvested blueberries to your pigs. Be ready for some blue snouts when they are done!
Grapes are a wonderful supplemental food for pigs, one they are sure to love. Packed with B vitamins, some minerals, and more antioxidants, grapes make a tasty and healthful treat for pigs of all ages.
And, as with any other food, don’t overdo it: even though they are healthy moderation is key!
Peaches are the soul of summer when it comes to fruit, and their enticing aroma will certainly cast a spell on your pigs.
Juicy, sweet, and satisfying, peaches lack somewhat in nutrition compared to other fruits but are nonetheless safe and a beloved treat for your pigs. Note that pigs can safely eat the skin of a peach, but never the hard pit!
These lovely little fruits are a summer favorite and, like peaches, their striking color and aroma will be sure to captivate your pigs.
Apricots are lower in sugar than some other common fruits and are a good source of fiber, along with vitamins A and C. As always with stone fruit, remove the pits before feeding apricots to your pigs.
Pumpkins are a good source of fiber and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. This makes them an excellent food for pigs, especially during the autumn months when they are in season.
Pumpkins can be fed to pigs whole, as unlike smaller animals they won’t struggle much to bust them open. Alternatively, you can give it to them in chunks or in pieces. If you do feed them whole, be sure to remove that woody stem before handing it over.
As a summertime treat, there is nothing quite like a crisp slice of watermelon and your pigs will be sure to agree.
Watermelons are mostly water (just like the name says!) but also contain some vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
They can be fed to pigs whole, in chunks or in slices, and are a great way to help pigs stay hydrated on the hottest days when heat stress is a real concern. Notably, pigs can eat the seeds of watermelon without worry or harm.
Lemons find their way into all sorts of food and drink for people, but rarely do we eat them whole and out of hand.
You pigs won’t hesitate, however, and will be sure to enjoy the tart, acidic flavor. Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C and can also help pigs with digestion.
As always when feeding citrus fruits to pigs, remove any seeds or stems before giving them to your pigs and only serve them occasionally; too much citrus fruit can trouble your herd.
Like lemons, limes are a tart citrus fruit that is often used as a flavoring agent or ingredient rather than eaten as-is.
Limes are similarly an excellent source of vitamin C and can also help with pigs’ gut health. And once again, a little bit goes a long way, don’t overfeed them!
As one of the most well-known citrus fruits, oranges are a classic favorite and make a delicious treat for your pigs.
Oranges are another excellent source of vitamin C, as well as fiber and some other vitamins and minerals.
You know the drill by now: remove the seeds and stem, and don’t give your pigs too many no matter how much they like them.
Lettuce is a leafy green vegetable that is safe for pigs to eat. There are many different types of lettuce, from iceberg and romaine to butterhead and bibb, and all of them are suitable for pigs.
Lettuce is mostly water but also contains vitamins A and K, as well as some calcium. It’s definitely a good food to feed to pigs as part of a healthy diet.
Cabbage often gets lumped in with lettuce, culinarily, but the two plants are distinct. What they definitely have in common is that they are good for your pigs.
Cabbage is a reliable source of vitamins C and K, and minerals like manganese and potassium. It’s a good food to add to your pigs’ diet for overall nutrition.
As with lettuce, there are many different types of cabbage, from green to red to Savoy, and all of them can be fed to pigs.
This cruciform vegetable is closely related to cabbage and shares many of the same nutritional benefits.
Cauliflower is a good source of vitamins and many minerals, including potassium, manganese and phosphorus.
Crisp and easy to eat, this is one food you can easily serve to your pigs no matter the occasion.
Broccoli is a cousin to cauliflower, and like its relative, it is a cruciferous vegetable that is packed with nutrition.
Unlike cauliflower, broccoli is a proper superfood considering the variety of vitamins and minerals it has.
Don’t hesitate to give your pigs some broccoli florets from time to time, they will love them!
Cucumbers are among the veggies that pigs like the most, and they’re perfectly safe for them to eat.
Crunchy and juicy, these are another hot weather ace-in-the-hole for giving your herd some much-needed nutrition in the form of essential vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium.
Tomatoes are another popular veggie that pigs love. These red beauties are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as some potent antioxidants in the form of lycopene.
Just don’t give your pigs too many tomatoes as they are acidic and rich, two things that can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues.
Carrots are a healthy and delicious treat for pigs. Packed with standout nutrients like beta-carotene, fiber, and vitamins A and C, these orange vegetables are a great way to help your pigs get the nutrition they need. What’s more, carrots are good for pigs’ teeth and can help keep their gums healthy.
29. Brussels Sprouts
These miniature cabbage relatives are greatly reviled by many people who had them forced upon them in childhood at dinnertime, but thankfully our pigs have no such reservations against these tiny nutritional powerhouses.
Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamins K and C, as well as fiber, manganese, and potassium.
So if you happen to have some leftover Brussels sprouts from your own dinner, feel free to share them with your pigs as long as they don’t have any harmful ingredients.
Potatoes are a staple in diets around the world, and they can even prove to be a staple in the diet of your herd.
These tubers are safe for pigs to eat and contain vitamins and minerals like potassium, copper, and many B vitamins.
Just be sure to cook them first as raw or green potatoes can be harmful to pigs. We will talk more about that in the next section.
31. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a healthier and somewhat safer alternative for pigs compared to regular potatoes, and they’re just as safe for pigs to eat even when raw.
These starchy vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and E as well as fiber, manganese, potassium, and phosphorous.
So feel free to give your pigs sweet potatoes whenever you want to treat them and they will love you for it.
Radishes are a root vegetable that is peppery tasting, but totally safe for pigs to eat. These pungent little veggies are actually quite healthy, containing an abundance of vitamins C and B6, as well as potassium and manganese. They can be fed to pigs raw or cooked, but never pickled.
Clover is considered a pest plant and grass killer in lawn care, but all your pigs will care about is how delicious they are. For grazing pigs, clover is a great way to give them some much-needed vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
You can even harvest clover clippings and serve them up as a clover “salad”, just be sure that the clover hasn’t been sprayed with any harmful chemicals before feeding it to your pigs.
Another lawn and garden nuisance, but one that plays a vital role in the early foraging of bees and other pollinators. More important to us, dandelions are totally edible and nutritious for your pigs.
These plants are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, as well as fiber, calcium, and iron.
So don’t be afraid to let your pigs chow down on some dandelions the next time they’re in the mood for a healthy snack.
35. Bell Peppers
Pigs can eat bell peppers with no problems. These brightly colored vegetables are yet another excellent source of B vitamins, minerals like potassium and manganese, as well as fiber and antioxidants.
Just be sure to remove the stem before giving them to your pigs, and take care that you do not confuse a bell pepper with any other species of hot pepper; pigs, like all mammals, will be affected by capsaicin!
Turns out it is pigs, not elephants, love peanuts. These little legumes are a good source of protein, B vitamins, and minerals like copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.
You can give your pigs peanuts whole, raw, or roasted; just be aware that salted or seasoned peanuts can be hazardous so it is best to stick with plain for your pigs.
37. Tree Nuts
Considering the true nuts, pigs can and will eat all sorts of them, from almonds and hazelnuts to pecans and pistachios.
These tree nuts are a good source of protein, healthy fats, B vitamins, and minerals like iron, phosphorus, and manganese.
You can give your pigs nuts whole, raw, or roasted, but as with peanuts be aware that extra salt and seasoning are no good.
38. Cooked Meat
Pigs are carnivorous, meaning they can and will eat meat. This might come as a surprise to some, but pigs are actually very efficient at digesting and utilizing proteins found in meat.
That being said, you should never feed your pigs raw meat as it can harbor bacteria that can make them sick.
Cooked meat is perfectly fine for pigs to eat, just be sure that it is free of any harmful spices or other ingredients they cannot have.
Hey, pigs want fun snacks too, you know. All horseplay aside, though pigs cannot eat much of the junk food that you and I do, some “clean” things like plain popcorn are A-OK for pigs.
At the end of the day, it is just cooked corn! You can hand over a bowl or scatter some around and they will be on it in no time.
Though lacking in vitamins, popcorn has some minerals and just as importantly will provide them with energy and a little entertainment.
13 Things Pigs Cannot Eat
1. Raw Meat
Wild pigs are opportunistic eaters in the wild and have been known to kill and eat smaller animals as prey, or even dine on carrion.
They have to do what they have to do, but for our domesticated pigs, raw meat is not a good idea.
It can make them vulnerable to various diseases and infections, and introduce parasites that may be transmitted to humans, or even ruin their meat. That’s a bad day, for sure.
If your pigs are going to have meat, it should be cooked first, or used as an ingredient in a processed supplement or feed.
2. Raw Eggs
Just like raw meat, raw eggs are a no-no for domestic pigs and for many of the same reasons.
The risk of salmonella and other diseases is just too great, and it’s not worth the potential consequences. If you want to give your pigs eggs, make sure they’re cooked first.
3. Wild Mushrooms
I honestly don’t know where the sentiment came from, but there is a persistent rumor that pigs can safely eat wild mushrooms.
While it is true that some pigs will eat just about anything, including mushrooms, and pigs can be trained to find mushrooms, pigs should never eat wild mushrooms.
Many such mushrooms are deadly poisonous, and for the ones that aren’t it requires expert knowledge to distinguish them from the poisonous variety.
Considering that most pigs weigh significantly less than humans, even a small bite could mean death.
If you want your pigs to eat mushrooms safely, get them from the grocery store. Don’t risk the health or lives of your pigs!
While there are some conflicting reports on the subject, onions are generally considered to be safe for pigs to eat in moderation.
However, too many onions can cause anemia in pigs, and certain breeds and even individual pigs seem far more sensitive to the compounds that can become toxic.
In my opinion, it’s best to be safe and not feed pigs onions at all, especially when you have so many other options. If you do decide to give your pigs onions, do so rarely and very sparingly.
Avocados, as it turns out, are pretty much only edible by humans. All parts of the avocado tree and all parts of the fruit contain persin, a toxin that can kill pigs very quickly.
The flesh of the fruit has very little persin in it, meaning it is technically safe (if risky) but the skin, pit, and leaves can be deadly if ingested. If you have avocado trees on your property, make sure your pigs can’t get to them!
6. Green Potatoes
I alluded to this in the earlier entry on potatoes, but here is the full story: potatoes, believe it or not, are actually in the nightshade family of plants. This means they are related to tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
These vegetables themselves are all perfectly safe for pigs (and humans) to eat, but the rest of the plants contain a toxin called solanine that can be deadly.
This same compound is also present in green potatoes! If you are going to give potatoes to your pigs, you must make sure they are ripe and be sure to toss any green ones.
7. Tomato Plants
Just like the above entry, tomatoes themselves are perfectly safe for pigs to eat.
However, the rest of the tomato plant contains high levels of solanine, and can be poisonous if ingested. The vines and roots in particular are full of the stuff.
If you grow tomatoes, make sure your pigs can’t get to the plants as they can and will eat them, and then it could be too late.
Pigs love sweet stuff, but the sweet stuff won’t love them back. Especially when it comes to processed sugar, you will want to avoid giving it to your pigs if at all possible.
While a little sugar now and then won’t kill them, too much of it can lead to obesity and all sorts of other health problems.
If you do insist on giving your pigs a sugar fix every once in a while, do so in extreme moderation and make sure it is real sugar, not processed junk.
Holly is a common plant with festive-looking berries, one that pigs will commonly encounter if allowed to forage.
Unfortunately, these berries are particularly poisonous to pigs along with the rest of the plant, and can cause everything from vomiting to death, in extreme cases.
If you have holly on your property, make sure you don’t accidentally collect it with other plants you can serve to your pigs.
10. Poison Ivy
Just to clear this up once and for all, pigs should not eat poison ivy. Chickens can eat poison ivy with no ill effects (at least, not for them) but pigs cannot.
The same rule applies to poison oak and poison sumac. All three of these plants can make pigs very sick, so it is best to just stay away from them altogether.
11. Artificial Ingredients
You must know by now that much of what people eat today is only charitably called “food”: this stuff is all packed with artificial ingredients, preservatives, colorings, and all sorts of other junk that is just not good for anyone, let alone pigs.
If you want to give your pigs the best possible diet, you will want to avoid anything with artificial ingredients and that includes the pseudo-food that comes from the interior aisles of the grocery.
Rhubarb is a tricky one because the leaves of the plant are poisonous to pigs (and humans) but the stalks are perfectly safe, most of the time.
Rhubarb contains a toxin called oxalic acid, which can cause everything from kidney damage and urinary calculi to internal bleeding and even death. However, this toxin is mostly found in the leaves of the plant, with much lower levels in the stalks.
This means that if you want to give your pigs some rhubarb, you should only give them the stalks and not the leaves.
13. Moldy or Rotting Food
This should go without saying, but pigs should not eat moldy or rotting food. However, thanks to popular depictions and the assertions of those who don’t know better we sometimes sadly find pigs eating, quite literally, garbage.
This can cause all sorts of health problems and illnesses and in some cases can even be fatal. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t give it to your pigs.
Pigs Cannot Eat Just Anything, or Live on Garbage
The moral of this story, if you want to call it that, is that pigs should not and cannot live on the scraps, trash, and bad food that the uninitiated think that they can.
Pigs have a reputation as animals that will eat the nastiest food and moldiest leftovers with enthusiasm, but the reality is quite different.
Pigs are enthusiastic eaters but sensitive all the same and their diet should be carefully planned and monitored to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need.
Feeding pigs raw meat, decaying produce, or nasty scraps is not going to see them stay healthy for very long. In fact, it could result in some very serious health problems or even death.
While they can be opportunistic feeders, pigs should not be fed a diet of garbage or substandard food. Don’t fall victim to this misinformation; your pigs need and deserve better.
Give Your Pigs a Healthy, Varied Diet and They Will Thrive
If you want your pigs to be healthy and happy, it is important to give them a varied diet that includes plenty of fresh foods, including grains, fruits, vegetables, and meat.
While they may love the odd scrap or bit of junk food, make sure that their main diet consists of good quality feed and whole food items.
This will not only keep them growing and fit but also save you from having to deal with sick or unhealthy pigs.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.