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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bacterial Foam Is Making Pig Barns Explode. Seriously.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 8:33 AM

This is what the bacterial foam looks like. - KTSP
  • KTSP
  • This is what the bacterial foam looks like.

In what may be the most spectacularly disgusting story of the month, Grist reports on a phenomenon that has killed thousands of pigs on giant industrial hog farms


Farms (OK, "farms") throughout the Midwest are seeing a gray, slimy, bacterial foam growing on the pigs' manure below the barns, sometimes 4 feet thick. It can sneak into the barn and envelop its ventilation system. When the foaming bubbles pop, they release methane, which can build up until a spark inevitably flares and the barn explodes, killing hogs and injuring humans. One in four Midwestern pig barns has problems with the foam, an industry newspaper reported in 2010, and the country has seen a half-dozen of these explosions over the past three years.

And where does this foam come from? The Minnesota Daily interviewed several scientists looking for causes and solutions to the foam problem, and one theory is that it has something to do with the spent grains from ethanol production that are fed to the pigs. Twin Cities-based KTSP filed a story on the foam, If you'd like to see more shots of it. SFoodie waited until after breakfast to watch the footage, and we think we'll be skipping lunch as well.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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