North Korea Moves to End Reliance on 'Grain-Fed' Animals for Food


2013.08.22
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Il inspecting the Tudan Duck Farm in Pyongyang in a photo released Oct. 13, 2011.
AFP PHOTO/KCNA via KNS

Hit by food shortages, North Korea is pushing ahead with plans to abandon the raising of pigs and poultry, which consume badly needed grain, and rely instead on “grass-fed” livestock like rabbits and goats as sources of meat, according to local sources.

An order to “drastically reduce the number of animals eating corn and rice bran” was issued by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in early March following his review of a report on the country’s livestock industry, a source in North Hamgyeong province told RFA’s Korean Service this week.

The call was repeated in July, “so pig farms have been changed to goat farms, and poultry farms to rabbit farms, on a nationwide scale,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Similar schemes have been attempted in the past, with North Korean military units ordered in February 2011 to raise goats and rabbits for their food—only to see the effort fail when little grazing for the goats could be found and rabbits were consumed without leaving enough to breed.

Separately, an agriculture official in North Hamgyeong confirmed Kim’s recent directive, adding, “Since March, about 7,000 pigs have been slaughtered, with only 16 pigs left to breed at pig farms in Heoryong [city].”

“All pig farms will likely be changed to goat farms in the next few years,” he said.

Farms 'reduced,' closed

“Following Kim Jong Un’s directions not to keep domestic animals that eat stock feed, most pig farms and poultry farms have been either reduced in size or closed,” a source in Jagang province said, also on condition of anonymity.

“Instead of raising chickens or pigs, we will be keeping rabbits and goats,” he said.

Though Jagang boasts dozens of poultry farms capable of raising about 20 million chickens and ducks and “well-appointed” farms capable of raising 250,000 pigs, the numbers of these animals are already in decline, RFA’s source said.

“Only 420,000 chickens and ducks and 9,400 pigs were being raised in Jagang province in March 2013,” he said.

North Korea has been reeling from persistent food shortages since a famine in the mid-1990s that resulted in several million deaths, and relies on foreign aid to feed its people.

Lack of food security in the nation has led to the proliferation of an underground market economy, which authorities have largely tolerated because of the failures of the public distribution system to provide adequate rations for the population.

In 2010, several international charities raised money to send giant rabbits to North Korea to breed as a cheap source of protein, but the animals vanished amid speculation that they had been quickly seized and eaten by officials.

Reported by Sung Hui Moon for RFA's Korean Service. Translated by Hyosun Kim. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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