Like all livestock, there are some contentious foods concerning pigs. These are foods that some people and even some published literature claim are harmful or even dangerous for our pigs, whereas others say just the opposite.
One such hot-topic vegetable is broccoli, believe it or not. Though a nutritional powerhouse for people, opinions seem split on whether or not broccoli is safe for pigs.
What’s the story? Can pigs eat broccoli safely or not?
Yes, pigs may safely eat broccoli so long as it is fed in moderation. Rich with vitamins and minerals that pigs need such as the B complex, broccoli may nonetheless become toxic if pigs are allowed to eat way too much.
This is one of those technical answers. Technically, broccoli and other brassica genus plants contain thiocyanates which are harmful to pigs, but practically they would have to eat an awful, awful lot of broccoli regularly for this to become an issue.
But, as you might have guessed, there is a lot more to know on this topic so keep reading!
Is Broccoli Toxic to Pigs?
Technically, yes. But for nearly all practical situations, no. Let me explain.
The part of broccoli that is potentially toxic to pigs is a class of phytochemicals called glucosinolates and their breakdown products, which contain the element sulfur.
These chemicals are found in all plants in the mustard family or brassica genus, including not only broccoli but also Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and turnips.
When these plants are chewed or otherwise broken open, the glucosinolates interact with enzymes to produce Isothiocyanates (ITCs), including sinigrin and progoitrin. It is these ITCs that have been shown to be toxic to pigs.
There are two primary ways that ITCs can be toxic to pigs. First, they can inhibit the thyroid gland’s ability to produce the hormone thyroxine, which regulates metabolism.
Second, when present in high enough concentrations, ITCs can damage red blood cells and cause anemia.
In order for these effects to occur, however, massive quantities of broccoli would need to be consumed on a regular basis.
However, for this toxicity to become an issue, pigs would have to eat a massive quantity of broccoli on a regular basis.
This is not a likely scenario for most pigs, so the chance of toxicity from eating broccoli is very low so long as you don’t allow them unfettered access to a broccoli field and make it a point to give your pigs a well-rounded diet.
Do Pigs Like Broccoli?
Yes! Pigs generally know what is good for them and based on their enthusiasm for broccoli the answer seems to be a resounding yes.
Nutritional Benefits of Broccoli for Pigs
Broccoli is justifiably classified as a superfood for its immense payload of vitamins and minerals, including many that pigs need on a regular basis.
Concerning vitamins, broccoli contains vitamin A equivalent and beta-carotene along with abundant B complex vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate.
Broccoli also has a respectable amount of choline, a ton of vitamin C and vitamin K, and a little bit of vitamin e to round things out.
The good news continues when you look at the mineral content of broccoli, with calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc all being present in respectable amounts, with both manganese and phosphorus being found in greater concentrations.
Altogether, these vitamins and minerals are great for a pig’s overall health, improving their digestive function, supporting their immune system, and helping to keep them growing at a healthy rate.
When it comes to antioxidants, broccoli is also one of the best sources around. These nutrients scavenge harmful toxins and byproducts that can damage cells, leading to inflammation.
The result is that eating broccoli can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.
Can Pigs Eat Raw Broccoli?
Yes. Raw broccoli is great for pigs as it has the maximum amount of nutrition. It is also easy for pigs to eat raw.
Can Pigs Eat Broccoli if It Turns Yellow?
Yes, though yellowed broccoli is somewhat bitterer than green, fresh broccoli. Picky pigs might turn their nose up at it but so long as it is not moldy or rotten it is still safe.
Can Pigs Eat Broccoli Stems?
Yes, they can. The stems are a little tougher to chew, but mature pigs won’t have any issues with them.
Can Pigs Eat Broccoli Leaves?
They sure can. Broccoli leaves also contain a variety of minerals and vitamins, so you can leave those on any heads of broccoli you feed to your herd.
Can Pigs Eat Cooked Broccoli?
They definitely will. Cooked broccoli may be more appealing to your pigs, especially when mixed in with other ingredients, but you should know that the nutritional values will be diminished significantly by cooking.
Don’t Give Your Pigs Broccoli if it Was Made with Bad Ingredients
On the subject of cooking, you should never feed your pigs any cooked broccoli if it was made with harmful ingredients they cannot have.
Things like salt, sugar, cheese sauce, fried onion, and excess fat should never be given to pigs as they can cause health problems.
It might sound cute to give them some leftovers from your own table, or to let them try your world-famous broccoli casserole, but you won’t be laughing when it makes your poor pigs very ill.
If you are fortunate, they will just get some bad indigestion or diarrhea.
But if you aren’t something serious like peritonitis, high blood pressure or kidney damage might result.
Only give your pigs plain broccoli or broccoli that has been cooked with other healthy stuff!
Be Mindful of Pesticides if the Broccoli Came from the Grocery
If you purchase any broccoli from the store for your pigs, you must be aware of the fact that it likely contains pesticide residue.
These chemicals can harm your pigs, so you should take care to wash the broccoli heads thoroughly before feeding them to your animals.
You can either do this by letting them soak in a sink full of water for a few minutes or by using a sprayer to blast off any grime.
You are advised to get organic broccoli if you can (or grow your own) but if you must serve them the standard stuff clean it off thoroughly.
How Much Broccoli Can Pigs Have?
Pigs can have broccoli semi-regularly as a dietary supplement. A good rule of thumb is to give them no more than 1-2 cups of broccoli per day, divided into two meals.
One thing you should be aware of if you decide to feed your pigs a lot of broccoli is that they may experience diarrhea as a result.
This is because broccoli contains a fair amount of soluble fiber, which can cause loose stools in pigs if they eat too much of it.
If your pigs are experiencing diarrhea after eating broccoli, cut back on the quantity and let them get back to normal.
How to Give Broccoli to Your Pigs
The best way to give broccoli to your pigs is to chop it into chunks or else into small pieces that can be mixed with other foods.
This will make it easier for them to eat and digest. You can also cook the broccoli before feeding it to your pigs, which may make it more palatable for them.
If you are feeding them broccoli at a meal, you can mix it in with other ingredients such as rice, vegetables, or meat.
Can Baby Pigs Have Broccoli, Too?
Yes, your piglets can have broccoli too, though you should wait for them to wean completely before letting them try it.
Also, keep in mind they will need smaller servings and will be more prone to diarrhea than adult pigs.
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.