I do not intend to make anyone feel bad for purchasing and eating conventionally raised pork. I understand that not everyone can raise their own pigs. I know that not everyone can afford to buy organic, pastured pigs. This information is shared so that people can gain understanding on why pastured pork is superior and why (I feel) not all pork products are unhealthy.
If you have been on the fence about adding some piggies to your farm or trying to decide if you should spend the extra money on “pastured” pork – this is for you.
You shouldn’t be able to find any grass-fed pigs. Because pigs don’t eat (just) grass. They are omnivores. They eat anything.
The correct term for pigs in a free environment, in a field, under the sunshine, grazing on grass & other forage (roots, grubs, berries, insects, nuts) is Free Range or Pastured Pigs. (Be careful buying “free-range” sometimes this just means that there is a door in the barn – not that any pigs actually go out it.)
First, let’s talk about how most pigs in America are raised – on concrete. If you want to see pictures of my visit to a tiny farm with pigs on concrete go here. They are kept indoors, the walls & floors are concrete. There’s no grass, mud, sun or fresh air for that matter. It’s hard to breath in there as a person, I can’t imagine working or living in that building.
It doesn’t take an expert to determine that these pigs can’t be healthy for us. All you have to do is walk in to the concrete buildings crammed with pigs, look around and take a whiff. It just can’t be good for the pigs, the farmers or those of us eating the pork.
#1 Reason to Eat Free Range Pigs
Pigs raised in confinement have issues:
Questionable Diet. At best their diet is probably GMO feeds, soybean meal and corn. These are known to be high in Omega-6. When an animal is fed high Omega-6 feeds the result is pork meat that is going to be high in Omega-6 fats. Omega-6 is not evil, we actually need Omega-6 & Omega-3 to be healthy. The problem is that most Americans get waaaaay too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3 and that is not good. It’s the out of whack ratios that’s hurting our health. source.
Antibiotics & Hormones are usually fed/ injected to make them grow & gain weight more quickly.
Manure/ Waste Accumulation. There’s all sorts of health issues associated with the amount of manure/ waste run-off from the confinement buildings. The waste problem has led to outbreaks of e-coli (I’m sure this is not the first time you’ve heard about this). source
Arsenic has historically been fed to pigs and chickens raised in factory farms to make them grow faster. Arsenic not only speeds up the growing, it also makes them bigger in the end, the meat pinker and kills certain bacteria. This stuff is toxic to us people. I don’t want to eat animals who were fed arsenic. source
US Pork is banned in some countries and 160 Nations because of a drug (ractopamine) used to speed growth. source 1 & source 2
In a world where consuming pork, bacon and processed deli meats is making us sick & unhealthy I went with the only option I felt comfortable with. I stopped eating pork.
For 5 years I didn’t eat pork. Not one bite. If I went to a friend’s house & pork was for dinner – I’d eat sides. If my dad was grilling pork chops, he would throw a steak on for me. No pork.
I read the wrong book. It was horrifying. What I learned about pigs and recycling and scavengers and animals designed to “clean” the earth and what is in their meat and intestines and feet and gag gag gag. I don’t even want to think about it.
No pork. No thank you. Never again.
Then I moved to a farm. And I could raise my own bottom-feeding, scavenger, recycling, earth-cleaning, ground-fertilizing pigs. And I could feed them a healthy diet. And I could bathe them in sunshine and pasture. And I could deworm and deparasite them.
And they would be my food and I would be happy.
The world is my oyster – Yes, Thank you, I am back in pork eating saddle again.
I’m a pig girl.
Pigs who are raised outdoors with access to pasture, wild food and sunshine are amazing.
# 2 Reason to Eat Free Range Pigs
Pastured/ Free Range Pigs are Good for you:
Are significantly higher in Omega 3’s (good fat) – in some cases the pork was 290% higher. source
The fat (Yay! lard!) is high in Vitamin D
The meat is higher in Vitamin E & Selenium
Are usually not fed or injected with growth hormones, antibiotics or other drugs that may cause cancer
Pastured pork contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). CLA is a good fat that has been shown to prevent the occurrence of all stages of cancer. source
Nitrate/ Nitrite Free options are available. If you want to have your pork products processed without the use of these sort of additives/ preservatives – you can. I am not necessarily on the bandwagon that all nitrate/ nitrites are evil – our saliva is responsible for 70- 90% of our nitrite exposure (source). I’m sure that the nitrates in my saliva are natural and better for me than the nitrates used in bacon, but I think it’s interesting nonetheless.
“It may shock you to learn that one serving of arugula, two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs.” –Chris Kresser
Pastured pigs are less likely to contain parasites. Shutter.
My pigs are some health-food eating, sunbathing, pasture destroying, grub finding, scrap loving, raw milk guzzling, Hogs. And I am not afraid to eat my bacon. Or sausage. Or ham. Or bratwursts. Or lard.
I’ve been raising pigs for several years. I prefer to raise them in summer & spend winter by the fire… not with pigs. Last summer I ended the year with 17 pigs. I put 4 in the freezer & sold or gave away the rest (I gave away a few of the potbelly piglets to friends). I thought I may take this summer off as far as raising pigs is concerned…….
We lost a freezer 2 weeks ago. Guess what was in it? 4 pigs, 5 deer legs, 4 chickens and 1 duck. It was a commercial freezer.
Guess what happened to all my pig meat that I was going to eat for the next year?
We had a party, cooked pig for 6 hours straight and ate until we couldn’t breathe.
So, now I am pretty much down to 100 pounds of sausage that didn’t get thawed and a few other assorted pig parts that happened to be in a different freezer. Sadness.
Since I can’t imagine going 12 months without pork chops, bacon, pork cutlets, bratwursts, ribs, pork steaks and ham I did the only logical thing. I went and got more pigs.
# 3 Reason to Eat Raise Free Range Pigs
If you have some space, I’m here to tell ya’ pigs are the easiest animals to raise. It only takes a couple months (depending on breed and how enormous you would like your chops). They are sweet, entertaining, fun, easy to raise and taste so dang good! More here (intro to pigs) and here (why you should get pigs).
It just doesn’t feel like a farm without pigs.
I’m sure you think your farm is complete with your chickens and your duck…. but it is not.
You need pigs.
We have a new pig source this year. If you live in Kentucky and want some Berkshire/ Hampshire pigs this is your guy. He’s a homeschooled graduate, an amazing musician and just jumped into the pig business in the past year. He’s the coolest pig farmer I’ve ever met.
He’s breaking all the pig-raising rules which is why I love him so much. He has a farm full of free-range, milk-raised, pastured, happy piggies. A local dairy donates tanks and tanks of milk to him to feed his piggies. He supplements the raw milk with some locally grown & ground feed.
These are some top-notch pigs.
Since there are 10,000 of them (just kidding, there are only about 70) they have a nice sized swimming pool going and all 10,000 have been swimming in mud for…… ever.
This makes for some healthy, cool, sunblocked, AND DID I MENTION DISGUSTING, pigs.
There is no amount of money that would get me pick up this pig. OK, maybe there is an amount of money that would convince me – but it would be an expensive purchase. Thankfully, the current pig-daddy was happy to carry the mud covered, stanky, giant piglets to my trailer.
We took home 3 lucky, filthy pigs. The pig farm we purchased our pigs from the past few years subscribes to the concrete method of raising pigs. Which I am completely against…… (more on that here) but I have to say that concrete makes for much cleaner piggies.
The kids watched as the pigs were loaded.
And I saw one of the biggest pigs I’ve ever seen in my life. You just can’t tell how HUGE she is from this picture – because there’s no context. Trust me – she’s a Volkswagen. I’d hate to be buying her groceries.
Normally, we park the truck in the driveway and carry the piggies to the pig pasture. Not this year. No way were any of us going to grab one of those disasters… So, being the awesome driver he is, Mario, I mean DH backed the trailer up to the piggie home.
DH (and his big gun) opened the back of the trailer to let the piglets walk into their new abode.
Because Jersey’s are nosy, everyone came Galloping to see the new tenants.
I know this pic is terrible, but I wanted you to see the pigs making their way to the new pasture & the cows (at the top) running over to see what in the world was going on. It was like the Cow Kentucky Derby. Trotting cows coming to see the new critters.
Yes, Welcome to, “The Pig Show” – Season 4
Just look at my new babies!! They are about 3 times the size we are used to. Which is good. 300 Pounds is the goal & these guys are well on their way. With gallons of fresh milk, all the food they can find in the ground (bugs, grubs, roots, brush, insects, nuts, grass, etc) & some feed these guys will fill out in no time.
Their lush green world will also be a barren, waste land in no time.