Today, hogs in the US have virtually disappeared from the landscape; they've gone undercover, hidden away in long metal buildings with concrete slats under their feet and cesspools of their own waste under the concrete slats. These concentrated animal feed operations or CAFO's (often pronounced "Kay-fo" are most commonly known as factory farms.
They are efficient, take up less space, and use fewer employees. Food and water is automated, temperatures are controlled year round and natural predators are barred by steel roofs, walls and doors. The administration of regular low-dose antibiotics is commonplace, and yet every year millions of piglets die from one bacterial infection or another because their immune systems never develop. Why?
Because they have been taken off the land, off the earth, off the dirt and grass and pastures that make for a happy, healthy and YUMMY tasting hog. The yummy part relates right back to the healthy part. Hogs raised in confinement, where they are not exposed to sunshine and must reside for months, years if they are breeding sows, over the noxious fumes of their own urine and manure, in overcrowded conditions makes for one unhappy animal. Studies have proven the extreme aggressiveness of these creatures living in such inhumane conditions. I'd be pretty ticked myself.
If you don't believe me, buy some CAFO pork chops at the grocery store, (98% of all pork in the US is raised that way) then buy some chops from a local farmer who raises his hogs on pasture. Prepare them the same, invite some friends over and do a taste test. Chances are you'll find it difficult to buy CAFO raised pork again.
Recently we moved our hogs off the smaller pasture they've had since they were 8 weeks old, onto a much bigger pasture they share with three steers. The combination of these two species on one pasture benefits everyone. Cows like to eat the tops of the grasses. Hogs will eat the lower grass stems and then dig up roots looking for grubs and mice.
Cows leave wet piles of manure pies and pigs root through them, spread them around and thus distribute nutrients to the soil. Cows eat the leaves off the lower tree branches while hogs will plow up the earth, loosening it for seed planting this fall and next spring. Both the steers and the hogs are social animals and it's not unusual for one to play with the other; tag is a favorite game as well as hide and go seek. No one cares for Jeopardy or Russian Roulette.
In another ten weeks or so the hogs will be big enough to go to the locker. We'll have wonderful pork for our freezer and sell the extra, providing us with a little extra income. Next spring we'll buy more Red Wattle piglets and do it all over again.