Monday, July 10, 2017

Yes Virginia, Hogs Do Eat Grass

Image result for hogs on pasture white huts

In the late 60's when my father took us out and about in our green Chevy Van, a drive in the country meant livestock. We saw cows, sheep, horses, chickens (which is just annoying because they are always crossing the road for no good reason) and pigs; we saw lots of pigs. Black, white, red and any combination thereof dotted the countryside. Within their pastures little huts made of metal or wood.

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.

Image result for CAFO for hogsImage result for CAFO for hogs

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.

14 comments:

  1. I live in a heavily wooded area where Oaks and Chestnuts are the most common trees. I have never understood why local farmers didn't fence off large areas to keep free range Pigs. They would have been self-sufficient (as are the Wild Boar), and could have been harvested once a year. Very few people keep Pigs any more, but when they did they were always confined to small stone built Pig Sties.

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    1. Sad isn't it? Livestock raising has become a lost art, factory farms are in.

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  2. Those chickens! ;) Too funny!! Do you have the same customers lining up every year for your naturally raised and superior tasting pork? I've had to literally wait for a customer to die before another new customer could be added onto our list. Such is the popularity. Happy healthy pigs = best tasting pork ever!

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    1. We used to sell to many people including several top chefs in the Chicago area, now the pork is just for us and a sister or three. We also use it to barter. Our grandson will do most any chore for a plateful of our bacon.

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  3. If pigs can be "happy", yours look happy. I know it's the way agriculture has evolved, but I do feel sorry for the animals in those crowded conditions. -Jenn

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    1. I do think they are happy. At night they string up lights around their mud hole, play Nirvana and dance till dawn.

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  4. Hi Donna, it's hard to read your post, but it's too easy to be ignorant as well. In the back of my mind, I know how hogs and chickens (and other animals likely) are kept, bred and processed...it's so awful and I try not to think about it. I try my best to buy "farm raised", "free range", "organic" meats when I can.

    I love that you raise your hogs so wonderfully and care about them, even knowing they are raised for the freezer. It's nice to know there are still people out there who have good sense and morals.

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    1. Rain, I was a Chicago city girl, but when I fell in love with a dairy farmer, my life and many of my views changed. I never thought AT ALL about where my food came from until I was 34 years old, now we are a bit obsessed with it.

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  5. I don't care whether you're talking about pigs, hogs or chickens; I cannot see how how an unhappy, ill, miserable animal like the ones raised in these factory farms can produce a piece of meat it is really healthy to eat.

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    1. In my opinion, that kind of meat is much worse for us to consume. So many big farmers give low dose antibiotics in all their feeds, which is absorbed by the animals and passed on to humans. Just one reason so many of todays kids have no resistance to basic germs and require big gun antibiotics to kill even minor infections. Plus, all that factory farmed meat just tastes bad.

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  6. Just got home from visiting Wisconsin's Farm Technology days. This dairy farm has 6,000 cows and milks over 3,000. While it's impressive, amazingly clean and the cattle have plenty of space and all look good they live in buildings. Seems to me cows belong in fields.

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    1. Did you get the opportunity to walk about the "farm" freely? Usually that is never allowed because there are often large piles of dead animals out back, not in view of the visitors. In addition the average life span of a cow on pasture is 10 years where confined cows are lucky to live three. Clean is good but dirty, as in being on dirt, is better.

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  7. And now I know a lot more about cows and pigs than before, thanks Donna.

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    1. Well you are welcome, I am in fact a wealth of knowledge, some of it might even be accurate. 50/50 chance :)

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