Economies of Waste: Industrial Hog Farm Infrastructure in Rural Netherlands

A Hog Waste Lagoon in Beaufort County

by Connie Migliazzo (MLA '13)

As the population of the world increases, so too does the demand for meat, with some statistics projecting consumption of meat to double by 2050.¹ Instead of mitigating the amount of meat these populations consume, it is our role as designers to understand this future and plan for its inclusion in a manner that is intensive yet self-sustaining and environmentally sensitive. Industrial livestock farming is quickly becoming one of the largest contributors to the destruction of our air, soil, and waterways: greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, mainly livestock farming, account for more than 6% of the U.S. total. Of particular interest are the effects of the tight confines and subsequent aggregate outputs of these intensive operations, which produce some of the largest amounts of greenhouse gases. Specifically, I seek to understand the limits, constraints, and processes associated with the treatment of livestock and their waste. Many farmers currently manage waste material as byproduct in primitive settling lagoons, which cause strong odors, groundwater pollution, and often overflow that pollutes surrounding waterways. Using the Netherlands as a case study, my research sought potential typologies for design to improve these systems and perhaps find alternative uses and benefits to be extracted from the aggregated waste.

As the largest exporter of pork in the European Union, the Netherlands is attempting to farm livestock as intensely as many operations in the United States, but on a land area the size of half the state of Maine. The Dutch government is beginning to discuss regulation improvements similar to those in Britain, but what role can design play in operations of these farms? Where is research being conducted to mitigate potentially disastrous situations for the Dutch landscape? The Netherlands is known for superior engineering and technology, so I sought to understand whether their advanced technical skills have been, or could be, implemented to treat the waste byproduct of industrial scale hog operations. In investigating the landscape of intensive hog operations in the Netherlands, I sought to find opportunities for implementation of alternative infrastructural systems in the United States. Perhaps these insights can allow design to permeate agro-business, currently dominated by geopolitical agendas.