Pigs have big appetites and effective digestive systems to cope with them. They are the opposite of picky eaters and will try almost any available food source, including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers.
Can pigs eat nightshade plants? Pigs can only eat nightshade plants in certain instances as many nightshades are poisonous. Some nightshades, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers, can be eaten by pigs when the fruit is fully ripe.
These fruits and vegetables all belong to the nightshade family of plants and contain the alkaloid solanine. Solanine is a “glycoalkaloid poison” that protects the plant as it grows.
It is present in all parts of the plant at different stages of its development. This alkaloid affects the toxicity of the plants and may make certain parts unsuitable for consumption, even by a hungry pig.
We’ve been raising free-range pigs for years and have offered them everything from weeds to commercial grains and restaurant scraps.
Our pigs have eaten almost everything with the same enthusiasm and no sign of an adverse reaction. However, a pig shouldn’t eat some things, no matter how hungry.
Tomatoes as Part of the Pig’s Diet
Can Pigs Eat Tomatoes? Pigs can safely eat fully ripened tomatoes. Whether raw or cooked, ripe tomatoes are edible for all types of pigs, including hogs, potbellies, and mini pigs. The tomato plant’s unripe fruit, stem, and leaves contain solanine and are toxic to pigs. Even the calyx or green cap on top of the fruit includes solanine and is potentially poisonous.
There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes worldwide, all of which are safe for pigs to eat once they’re ripe and juicy.
Every other part of the plant, including the green fruits, contain solanine which is toxic to most animals, including pigs and humans.
Solanine is a natural pesticide that protects plants against insects and other pests. Its goal is to prevent anything from eating the plant before it reaches maturity.
Signs of solanine poisoning in pigs include:
- Shaking of the head
If a pig consumes a large enough quantity of solanine, it will lapse into a coma and, most probably, die.
Fortunately, the amount of solanine in the green caps on top of the tomato is so tiny that they present little danger for large pigs. Nevertheless, you should remove as many as possible, especially when feeding tomatoes to mini pigs.
Tomatoes have many health benefits for pigs as they contain antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber.
Raw Tomatoes are Better for Pigs than Cooked Ones
Tomatoes have a high nutritional value, whether offered cooked or raw. Cooking tomatoes of any variety decreases the amount of available vitamin C.
Cooking a tomato for even a couple of minutes can reduce its vitamin C content by as much as 10%.
Raw tomatoes have more health benefits and contain higher levels of vitamin C, which helps pigs to grow faster and “combat the negative effects of heat stress on feed intake.”
Potbellies and Mini Pigs can Eat Tomatoes
All types and breeds of pig can benefit from eating ripe tomatoes. Whether you’ve got a minipig who loves cherry tomatoes or a potbelly with an appetite for beefsteak tomatoes, it’s perfectly safe to treat it to its favorite food every once in a while.
To make the tomatoes safe for your pet pig to eat, ensure the fruit is completely ripe and remove all green parts of the plant, including the calyx.
It would be best if you also washed the tomatoes before offering them to your pig. Some tomatoes carry traces of pesticides and other chemicals that upset your pig’s digestive system.
While cherry tomatoes are small enough for mini pigs to eat whole, different varieties present a choking hazard and should be chopped up before feeding.
Only feed your pigs tomatoes as part of a balanced diet. Tomatoes are very acidic and could cause urinary infections if provided in large quantities.
Tomato Sauce could be Dangerous for Pigs
Store-bought tomato sauce is a highly processed product with very few nutritional benefits for either pigs or humans.
It contains chemicals and preservatives that could be toxic to your pig and “hardly contains any protein, no fiber, no vitamins, and minerals.”
Homemade tomato sauce still benefits pigs because it’s processed differently and doesn’t contain the high fructose corn syrup used in commercial sauces.
Peppers are Good for Pigs, but are they Palatable?
Can pigs eat bell peppers? Pigs can eat bell peppers and get some nutritional benefits from them. Although bell peppers contain solanine, this poison is mainly found in the vine, leaves, and calyx. The fruit is safe for pigs to eat, even when green, as they only contain small quantities of solanine.
Although bell peppers are safe for pigs to eat, mine rarely show any interest in eating them raw. We grew many green bell peppers at one stage, and the pigs refused to eat them unless we cooked them first. The problem with doing that is it reduces the nutritional benefits of the fruit.
Raw peppers are high in antioxidants and low in starch. They contain lots of good nutrition, and all varieties are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Red peppers are the most nutritious because they’ve spent the longest on the vine. They also contain “almost 11 times more beta-carotene and 1.5 times more vitamin C.”
Pigs convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is “essential for vision, reproduction, and tissue development.”
Pigs can Eat Jalapeños and Chili Peppers
Pigs can eat jalapeños and other types of hot chilis in moderation. Too many can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues.
All types of hot chilis, including jalapeños, contain capsaicin. It’s this alkaloid that gives them their spicy flavor and many of their health benefits.
Jalapeños are high in nutrients but low in calories. They also contain healthy levels of vitamin C and fiber.
The Leaves of the Jalapeño Might be Safe for Pigs
Some people even recommend feeding jalapeño leaves to pigs, saying, “these types of leaves are not spicy and provide a great flavor to whatever meal you’re preparing for your pigs.”
As jalapeños belong to the nightshade family, one would expect their leaves to contain solanine which, as we’ve already established, is toxic to both pigs and humans. Nevertheless, jalapeño leaves are popular in both Filipino and Korean cuisine.
To err on the side of caution, I would recommend only feeding pigs cooked leaves from the chili plant and then only in moderation.
Pigs Can Develop a Taste for Spicy Foods
I’ve owned and bred over a hundred pigs, none of which showed any interest in eating hot or spicy foods. I’m not particularly keen on them, which is possibly why my pigs never developed a taste for them.
Some pigs enjoy spicy foods, but too much of it could still harm their digestive systems, so moderation is necessary. Limiting the chili pepper proportion of your pig’s diet to less than 1% of its entire food intake would be best.
The Dangers and Benefits of Feeding Pigs Potatoes
Can pigs eat potatoes? Pigs can eat potatoes safely, provided they’ve been cooked or dried beforehand. Raw potatoes contain a lot of starch, which pigs find difficult to digest. Green potatoes are potentially dangerous to pigs because of their solanine content.
Potatoes have a lot of potential benefits for pigs, but you need to select and prepare them carefully before feeding them. Pulling potatoes out of the ground and tossing them to your pigs can cause health issues for pigs, especially sows.
Pig farmer Valerie Root found this out the hard way. After being given tonnes of potatoes, she fed them to her pigs, raw and then cooked.
The potatoes ran out just a few weeks before her sows were due to farrow. It was only then that she realized what a terrible mistake she’d made. Of the 108 piglets born that year, only 21 survived birth. The reason? “We fed too many potatoes to the pigs.”
How to Feed Potatoes to Pigs Safely
Potatoes are tricky little things to include in your pig’s diet, even though they’ve proved to be a great source of energy when fed correctly.
Green potatoes, or ones that have started to shoot, contain high levels of solanine, and you should avoid them at all costs.
Raw potatoes are between 60 and 80% starch, which a pig will struggle to digest. Cooking potatoes helps to break down this starch, making them more digestible.
Even cooked potatoes aren’t as rich in protein and vitamins as commercial pig feeds and, as a result, should only make up around 25% of the pig’s diet.
Pigs will feel full after eating potatoes but won’t get the nutritional variety they need to thrive.
The best way to prepare potatoes for your pigs to eat is by following these steps:
- Remove any green or spoiled parts of the potato, along with any sprouts and new growth
- Either peel the potatoes or rinse thoroughly to remove any dirt and residual chemicals
- Chop the potatoes into small pieces to prevent choking
- Boil the chopped potatoes for 15 to 20 minutes
- Drain and discard the water you boiled the potatoes in as it may contain harmful substances
- Allow the potatoes to cool before feeding
- Feed cooked potatoes the same day; otherwise, they may start to spoil.
Some pig owners recommend feeding boiled potatoes to both piglets and sows, saying it improves “metabolic processes and productivity.”
Never feed your pig any part of the plant other than the ripe potatoes, as these contain solanine which is toxic to pigs.
Potato Chips are Better for Pigs than Humans
Commercial farmers feed their livestock all kinds of weird and wonderful things. Who can forget the truck full of skittles that overturned on its way to a dairy farm?
Researchers have been conducting studies on the benefits of feeding potato chips and chip scraps to growing meat pigs since 1998.
The most recent study, conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University in 2000, found that potato chip scraps “can be an effective substitute for corn in the diet of nursery and growing and finishing pigs.”
According to the animal nutritionist Sha Rahnema, potato chips accelerate weight gain in young pigs because the oil in chips gives them more energy than they get from a traditional corn-based diet.
There is also evidence to suggest that including potato chips in the diets of meat pigs improves the taste and quality of the meat. Potato chips contain around 33% fat, making them notoriously bad for humans, but they give piglets the energy they need to pack on the pounds.
For the best results with growing meat pigs, replace 12.5% of the pig’s corn feed with potato chips, and you can significantly reduce the number of days it takes for that pig to reach market weight.
While suitable for meat pigs, potato chips could prove too fattening for pet mini pigs and potbellies, so they should only be fed as occasional snacks rather than part of their daily diet.
Sweet Potatoes are Healthy Treats for Pigs
Unlike the other vegetables discussed here, sweet potatoes do not belong to the nightshade family nor contain any solanine.
Sweet potatoes, or yams, are members of the Morning Glory family and are perfectly safe for pigs to eat. Even the runners or vines benefit pigs, although mine aren’t particularly interested in them.
Sweet potatoes are highly nutritious and provide pigs of all types with a wide range of health benefits. High in vitamin A, they boost the immune system, stimulate growth, and support reproductive function. They also contain an assortment of B complex vitamins that pigs need for energy metabolism.
Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious vegetables you can feed a pig, especially when offered raw. Unfortunately, sweet potatoes are also quite dense and tough, so they require a lot of chewing. The best way to feed your pig sweet potatoes is to chop or grate a few into his daily feed. This preparation will make them easier to chew and digest.
Cooked sweet potatoes are softer and easier to eat, but the cooking process dramatically reduces their nutritional value.
Eggplants are Good for Pigs in Moderation
Can pigs eat eggplants? Pigs benefit from eating eggplants due to their anti-inflammatory effects and high levels of antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins. Like all nightshade family members, they contain traces of solanine that can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues, so you should only feed them in moderation.
Cooking reduces the dangerous alkaloids in eggplant by 40 to 50%, making cooked eggplant much safer for pigs than raw vegetables.
Even though they contain solanine, many nightshade family members are safe for pigs to eat, provided you prepare them properly.
Tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, jalapeños, sweet potatoes, and eggplant all have nutritional benefits for pigs when fed in moderation.
These vegetables should never form the main bulk of your pig’s diet but can be used to supplement a commercial grain-based feed, especially for growing meat pigs. Mini pigs and potbellies can also get nutritional benefits from these vegetables.
As all these vegetables, except for sweet potatoes, contain some solanine, caution is required. As a general rule of thumb, remove all green parts of the plant before feeding, chop and cook the vegetable as needed, and limit your pig’s consumption to just 25% of their daily diet.
In other words, if you’re feeding a 150 lb mini pig 6 lb of feed per day, this should include no more than 1.5 lb of peppers, tomatoes, or any of the other vegetables discussed in this article.
For more tips on feeding pigs vegetables, check out this article on Healthy Vegetables For Pigs: Potbellied, Mini, All Pigs.
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