Pigs can eat all sorts of foods, including produce. Pretty much everything that you and I can eat pigs can eat also when it comes to vegetables.
But there are a few that might give owners pause. Take tomatoes for instance. Tomatoes are juicy and nutritious, but they have a reputation for being a bit hard on animals’ stomachs, and some people even say that tomatoes are toxic for livestock.
What’s the straight answer? Can pigs eat tomatoes?
Yes, pigs may safely eat tomatoes so long as they are completely ripe. Unripe tomatoes and all other parts of the tomato plant contain toxic amounts of solanine which can be extremely harmful to pigs.
There’s no reason to be afraid of feeding tomatoes to your pigs so long as they are ripe and unspoiled.
Your pigs will love the taste, and the juice in his can help them stay hydrated on hot days.
Just be careful not to overdo it, as even ripe tomatoes can cause stomach upset in pigs. There’s plenty more to know, so let’s get going.
Never Feed Pigs Unripe Tomatoes!
If you learn nothing else from this article, learn this: unripe tomatoes are dangerous for pigs.
This is because unripe tomatoes contain solanine, a glycoalkaloid poison that is found in the nightshade family of plants.
Yes, tomatoes are in the nightshade family alongside their deadly cousin. Solanine is produced as a defense mechanism by the plant to protect it from pests, but it is also toxic to animals and humans (i.e. threats to the plant’s reproduction) if consumed in large enough quantities.
Solanine is present in all parts of the plant except the ripe fruit, so you should never let your pigs eat any other part of the plant (including the calyx or green “cap” of the tomato itself) and never, ever give them unripe tomatoes.
Symptoms of Solanine Poisoning in Pigs
Solanine poisoning manifests differently in different animals, but the common symptoms in pigs are stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, shaking of the head, weakness, and collapse followed by coma.
If you think your pig has eaten any part of the tomato plant or an unripe tomato and is showing any of these symptoms, summon a vet immediately.
Nutritional Benefits of Tomatoes for Pigs
Tomatoes are perhaps most beloved for their sheer versatility when it comes to cooking and cuisine. No matter how they are prepared, they always seem to taste great.
But as it turns out they also have a pretty respectable nutritional profile, too, with lots of good stuff that pigs need.
For starters, tomatoes have a good amount of vitamin A equivalent and beta-carotene. They also have a well-rounded profile of B complex vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate.
Rounding things out is a great shot of vitamin C along with a little bit of vitamin E and vitamin K.
The mineral content does not quite stack up to the number of vitamins that tomatoes have, but there’s nothing to scoff at either.
Tomatoes provide a little bit of calcium, iron, and zinc with slightly greater amounts of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium.
These nutrients all play a valuable part in a pig’s biology. Vitamin A is utilized for vision, skin health, and a strong immune system.
The B vitamins are important for metabolism and energy production. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage, while vitamin e does the same thing but with a focus on fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
Tomatoes also contain a fair amount of fiber, which is important for digestive health, and lycopene, an antioxidant carotenoid that gives tomatoes their characteristic red color.
Lycopene has been linked with a reduced risk of cancer in some studies, although more research is needed to confirm this for pigs.
Can Pigs Eat Raw Tomatoes?
Yes, but only if they are ripe! Assuming they are, this is the best way to serve them as they will maintain maximum nutrition and be easy to eat.
Can Pigs Eat Tomato Plant Vines?
No! The vines of the tomato plant are where the highest concentration of solanine is found and eating them can lead to serious health problems for your pig.
Can Pigs Eat Tomato Plant Leaves?
No! Just like the vines, the leaves of the tomato plant are high in solanine and should not be eaten by pigs.
Can Pigs Eat Cooked Tomatoes?
Yes, though there is not much cause to cook the tomatoes prior to serving them. Pigs can eat them raw with no problem.
Don’t Give Your Pigs Tomatoes if They Were Made with Bad Ingredients
I mentioned earlier that tomatoes are rightly famous for their sheer versatility in cooking.
This is fine, but I must note that you should never give your tomatoes to pigs if they have been prepared with or used as an ingredient in something that your pigs shouldn’t eat.
Think of things like spices, sugary sauces, extra salt, oil, pasta, and things of that nature. When combined with tomatoes, all of these things can produce a dish that is truly memorable but your pigs shouldn’t have any of it.
At best your pigs are probably going to get a severely upset stomach and gain lots of extra fat, not in a good way.
But at worst they couldn’t suffer from serious health effects, particularly hypertension, kidney damage and inflammation of the intestinal tract.
Any of these effects have the potential to be fatal. Save the fancy food for you and your family, and only feed tomatoes to your pigs if they are plain or prepared with similarly wholesome, clean ingredients that they can eat.
Be Mindful of Pesticide if the Tomatoes Came from the Grocery
There’s another risk associated with feeding tomatoes to pigs, but this risk is not unique to tomatoes. I am talking about pesticide residues, particularly on store-bought tomatoes.
sadly, virtually every single piece of commercial produce these days, fruit and vegetable alike, is positively drowned and pesticide from planting to harvest.
This keeps fruit unspoiled and unsullied before it can make it to market and then to our dinner tables, but these pesticides have a way of lingering on produce long after they have been picked.
The point is that these pesticide chemicals have also been linked with all sorts of nasty health problems and mammals, including pigs.
After accumulating in tissues over time these chemicals have been known to cause nervous system damage, reproductive harm, and cancer.
That is bad news for sure. The best thing you can do to avoid this unhappy outcome for your pigs is to grow your own tomatoes as they aren’t that hard to produce.
The next best thing you can do is purchase organic varieties from the grocery store. Whether you can come up with organic tomatoes or not, make it a point to thoroughly wash the fruit before serving it to your pigs.
How Many Tomatoes Can Pigs Have?
Pigs should only get tomatoes as a supplement, not as a staple, and definitely not all the time.
Even though they are generally healthy, they are not nutritionally complete, and too many tomatoes can lead to stomach trouble. Keep in mind that tomatoes are intensely acidic.
A good rule of thumb is to give your pigs no more than one small serving of tomatoes per day, totaling perhaps 5% of their total food intake.
How to Give Tomatoes to Your Pigs
The best way to feed tomatoes to pigs is to give them the whole fruit, including the skin and seeds.
You can either let them eat it as is or cut it up into smaller pieces according to the size of your pigs and their habits.
Alternatively, you could mash the tomatoes into a thin paste and mix it up with other foods or grains to make a tasty treat for them.
Can Baby Pigs Have Tomatoes, Too?
Yes, but only sparingly and only occasionally. Once they are old enough to start eating solid food piglets are still going to be sensitive to the richness of tomatoes.
Just like with any other food, you should introduce tomatoes to baby pigs slowly to give their tummies time to adjust.
If they seem to like it and have no adverse reaction, then you can gradually increase the amount you give them over time
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, according to the same standards as the piglets above. Remember: lower body weight means smaller portions!
Yes, just like any other breed of pig. All the advice applies: ripe tomatoes only, fed on a limited basis and in limited quantity.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.