The debacle in Michigan with small farmers of certain heritage pigs having to kill their stock in order to prevent being put in jail or being fined has me concerned. While it is the principle of food freedom and the right of Americans to own private property at stake-not simply heritage pigs-I thought I would take a look at why heritage pigs are preferred by many and why we should care.
Some confuse heritage pigs with endangered breeds. While some heritage pigs are endangered, many are widely raised by small farms across the United States. Heritage breeds are the pigs that were once owned by small farms everywhere. They lived as part of the natural cycle of the farm. Pigs were often used to help root out fields, allowed to forage in the forest, fed scraps from the table and skim milk or whey from the cow, and eventually became juicy bacon for the table. However, when we had the bright idea to mass produce pork, pigs weren’t well suited for the task, so specific breeding developed pigs that were at least more tolerant of living in uncomfortable, cramped quarters.
The pigs of yesterday were largely forgotten, but have seen a recent wide resurgence with chefs, gourmets and those interested in traditional food supporting farmers who took to raising heritage pigs. Here are six reasons heritage pigs being raised on small farms are a worthy to support.
Like most revivals of traditional practices, it only happens if it is worth going back too. Unlike the uniform, plastic wrapped pork that is mass produced and found in the stores, heritage breeds vary in flavor. They go from the mild and fatty flavors of some breeds to the meaty, dark lean meat of others. Some of the breeds are naturally lean, some make good bacon, others are perfect for lean hams. There is a lot of variety to be found in heritage breeds.
Most people find heritage pigs better tasting, and for that reason they have made a come back in the American world. At a restaurant within walking distance to where I live, there is a popular burger made from heritage pork. It is not the name of the burger, but the juicy flavor that makes it a favorite.
While conventional pig breeds were breed with the thought of indoor confinement and mass production, older breeds are suited for outdoor lives. Some are very well suited for cold weather making it possible for small farms to raise pigs in outdoor cold weather with success. These pigs thrive in their natural environment. One of the farms affected by the ISO( Invasive Species Order) over in Michigan raises pigs that are especially suited to the cold winters there. Breeds are chosen often not only because of the taste, but also the suitability to the local climate.
For those of us concerned about the welfare of pigs raised in the conventional manner, small farms raising heritage breeds allows us to support farmers who treat their pigs kindly. We can buy knowing that the pigs we consume were given a healthy, happy life. One should note that not all marketed “heritage pigs” are raised on small, healthy farms. Buying directly from local farms allows you buy from such farms.
Lard from pastured pigs contain high amounts of vitamin D, conventional pigs contain minimal amounts. Vitamin D levels are low across America; lard from pastured pigs is an excellent source. Pastured animals as a general rule have better vitamin content, better ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty- acids, and are healthier in general than their confided counterparts.
Pigs raised on pasture have 300 percent more vitamin E and 74 percent more selenium (a vital antioxidant) in their milk than pigs raised in confinement, according to Don C. Mahan Professor of Animal Sciences at Ohio State University. This bounty of nutrients promotes healthier litters, shorter farrowing times, and good milk let down. The pigs’ meat is enriched with vitamins as well. Fortifying the pigs’ diet with synthetic vitamins, the standard practice in confinement operations, does not achieve the same results because the artificial vitamins are more poorly absorbed.
A herd of pigs that had not been exposed to antibiotics for 126 months was divided into two groups and either housed on pasture or in standard indoor units. Over a 20-month period, fecal coliforms from both groups of pigs were tested for resistance to standard antibiotics. Samples taken from the pastured pigs were far less likely to be antibiotic resistant. “The data from this study suggest that exposure to antibiotics is not the only factor that influences the prevalence of bacteria that are resistant to single and multiple antibiotics in the feces of domestic animals and that considerable research is needed to define the factors influencing antibiotic resistance in fecal bacteria.
“Most conventional production of swine, poultry, and eggs in this country is done in large confined operations in which animals are fed grain-based diets, given no access to pasture, and fed antibiotics to prevent disease and accelerate growth. These confined or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) pose environmental, animal health, and public health hazards due to the enormous quantities of manure produced in these operations and the large number of animals raised in close quarters.
Well-managed pasture systems can minimize environmental damage to soil, air, and water, and build soil fertility. Animals that can engage in natural behaviors outside as opposed to being crowded indoors tend to be healthier and need fewer antibiotics, which reduces the rate of antibiotic resistance in food-borne bacteria. “
Diversity is good because not only does it provide a wide array of tasty pork, but it also is a better protection against disease. If a new (or old) disease gains the upper hand with one breed of pigs, other breeds are often resistant. If all pigs were raised in CAFOs, diversity would be nil. This would be an unwise situation. Diversity in plants and diversity in animal stock is always a safeguard.
Latest posts by KimiHarris (see all)
- 2 Ingredient Peppermint Bark - December 21, 2022
- Herbal Hibiscus Lemonade (Keto, THM) - March 16, 2022
- Creamy Curry Red Lentil Soup - December 8, 2021
Great article, Kimi! We purchased a CSA share this season that includes 1/4 of a Tamworth Heritage breed hog. We’re excited to try it out 🙂
I am so glad you are bringing this issue to people’s attention. The ramifications of Factory Farming are huge !
One other thing to consider is that pigs bred to be slaughtered by large industrial farms have actually been bred to die young. They are engineered to get fat as quickly as possible and be ready for slaughter. Their skeletons aren’t even able to keep up with the weight and so legs breaking, etc are a problem. So such pigs will actually just keel over anyways if kept alive longer than their planned slaughter date. Eating an industrially raised pig is eating a dying pig. Yes I know, cheerful 🙂
Dina-Marie @ Dimes2Vines
Thanks for sharing this, Kimi. I did not know what a heritage pig breed was! As with most things, though, if grown or raised in a smaller local farm setting it tends to be among other things healthier.
Yes all of these things are just the icing on the devels food cake of deception that our government has been feeding us for so long. I do believe that Yahway (God) is concerned about the details of our lives and that is why I only eat things the way he made them uncorrupted by man or at least I try to do this for my family. I do all that I can to buy only organic and support local foods we got an omega juicer that has so many functions its great. We also had to get a berkey filter for our water in the city was not great.Now there is a scripture in Yahways holy word that talks about the people having a way of holieness about them but that they put a higher importance on thier phisycal food than on thier spiritual food. Now while I completely believe that Yahway is the one to open our eyes to these things and it is good to be mindful of them we should even more study in his word and stay in prayer always trusting that he is thy all our everything. Did you ever wonder about why the holy word of our father in heaven who sees and knows all would not have any word about america this great nation that has done so much around the globe? Wake up!! our father Yahway is calling his children out of her this great mystery babylon. I beg of you to open up his word and read all about it and I will pray that Yahway opens your eyes to this truth.
I agree that “uncorrupted” food and water is key to the intended function of our bodies.
The Christian god may know all, but those who wrote the bible were not able to see a thousand years into their own future. The wonders and complexities of this world are communicated to us in many ways; we all face a journey of understanding and applying them. Best wishes to you on yours!
Unfortunately, I live in Michigan. My 4 yr relationship with my dairy farmer and my cow ended when he was forced to pasturize the organic milk. My state used the Farm Bureau Insurance group as leverage by treatening to drop his farm’s insurance if he didn’t comply. Here is another example of my state’s ignorance and its overwhelming need to stomp on individuals rights to buy and raise high quality food for their families…and be force to buy unhealthy, mass produced animals and products from mass produced feedlot producers…(I refuse to call them farmers) that are void of healthy vitamins/minerals, ect. I am also old enough to remember the BPP contamination (a fire retardant that was accidently mixed into bags of feed) from years ago that caused so much damage that the state hid from the farmers and the public who ate the contaminated meat. My state DOES NOT care about us or our health. As a RN in a busy recovery room, I see first hand the increase of disease and damage to our residents. All we can do is support the Weston A. Price Foundation who helps farmers with the legal defense fund and rally at the government level! God Bless them!!!
I recently bought some raw goats milk, and it was labeled “not intended for human consumption.” If milk is labeled as such, can you get away with the laws against raw milk? Just wondering. I didn’t know that Michigan disallowed raw milk.
My co-workers and I have started to buy all our meat from a local butcher – they only deal in local small farms. Grass-fed and organic. They are also working with small farmers for the Heritage pork too — can not remember the name at the moment. YUM! Since I have to home cook for my pup – he has calcium oxalate crystals – I have started to buy trim from the same place to make his food. May end up saving the pork trim for our use – too much fat – will render down and use for cooking. Spoiled yes 😉
Adrienne @ Whole New Mom
Wondering what everyone thinks about pork and parasites. There is a lot of talk about it and I wonder sometimes if we should eat pig at all.
Also, there is an interesting article on WAPF’s site about the need to marinate pork before eating it. I haven’t done this but they show the result of doing that on red blood cells and it is very compelling.