But as I’ve transitioned from my parents’ heated farrowing barn to outdoor and hut farrowing, I noticed something. If I wasn’t able to reach into the hut and take out the placenta right away, it would disappear. I realized the sow was eating it, and since none of the sows were leaving the nest for at least 24 hours for water or feed, I figured whatever nutrition was in the placenta may be beneficial. So for the fourteen gilt litters this summer I made a point to leave the placenta, while still removing any dead piglets.
Researching this post led me to a greater appreciation of the placenta. One website says “the placenta is the only organ that belongs to two people at the same time.” Another website says the placenta functions for a baby’s vital organs. As a baby reaches full-term, the flow of maternal blood to the baby is around one pint per minute. The surface of the placenta is covered with what is basically a single cell with millions of nuclei. The surface area of this cell is over 100 square feet.
While the placenta is amazing, the claims for placentophagy are not scientifically proven. This doesn’t mean they’re wrong, it just means they’re not proven. And in a case like this where the powers-that-be have little to gain, I think it may be some time before anything is proven.
Being a man, I would never eat a placenta because it seems too much like cannibalism to me. But if I was an expectant mother I would give it some thought. If I made the choice to not eat the placenta, I think I would do like Native Hawaiians and plant it with a tree.