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10 Ways Our Pigs Live a Better Life in the Pasture

written by

Alan McCaa

posted on

July 3, 2023

Raising hogs on pasture isn't just an ethical choice; it offers practical benefits and yields a superior product. Here at our farm, we adhere to a holistic method of regenerative agriculture that benefits not only our animals but also the environment and, ultimately, you, the consumer. This article aims to highlight ten ways our hogs live a vastly different life compared to conventionally Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)—industrial-scale facilities where large numbers of livestock are confined and fed for rapid growth. 

1. Natural Livelihood for Mother Pigs

Our mother pigs live and give birth naturally, free from the constraints of crates. In contrast, CAFOs confine mother pigs to crates for the entirety of their adult life. We believe in allowing our animals to live as naturally as possible, which ultimately results in healthier pigs and a higher quality product.

2. An Outdoor Immune-Building Environment

Our pigs are raised in outdoor environments that promote strong immune systems. They naturally develop immunity to common diseases, negating the need for routine vaccinations or antibiotics. On the other hand, CAFO pigs are raised in sterile environments that often result in weak immune systems, necessitating drugs and antibiotics for survival.

3. Healthy Growth and Nutrition

We allow our pigs to grow naturally, accumulating healthy body fat. In contrast, CAFOs often use drugs like Paylean, a beta-agonist that promotes lean muscle growth but is banned in 160 other countries (See Article: Controversial Drug Ractopamine Is Back in the News—And Still in Your Food - https://organicconsumers.org/controversial-drug-ractopamine-back-news-and-still-your-food/). Our method results in meat with a natural taste, free from artificial chemicals, and high nutritional content.

4. Sunshine and Fresh Air

Our pigs enjoy the sunshine and fresh air daily, a stark contrast to CAFO pigs subjected to artificial lighting most of their life. This exposure to natural elements contributes to their overall health and well-being, and it's reflected in the quality of the meat.

 5. Small, Outdoor Groups

We raise our pigs in small groups of 100 or fewer outdoors. This contrasts with CAFOs, which often house thousands of pigs in large buildings. Our approach allows for healthier social structures among the pigs and reduces the risk of disease spread.

6. Natural Breeding

Our pigs enjoy natural breeding whenever the mood is right, unlike CAFO pigs subjected to planned artificial insemination in crates or gestation pens. This natural process contributes to the welfare and overall happiness of our pigs.

7. Hardy Heritage Genetics

We prioritize time-tested, hardy heritage genetics, which stand in contrast to the fragile, hybridized industrial genetics of CAFO pigs. Heritage breeds are known for their hardiness, adaptability, and overall health, contributing to a superior product.

8. A Regenerative Mindset

At our farm, we operate under a regenerative mindset. Our aim is to have happier, slower, better, healthier pigs. This is a stark contrast to the industrial mindset of CAFOs, which prioritize getting pigs fatter, faster, bigger, and cheaper. Our goal isn't just to produce food; it's to enhance the ecosystem, contribute to a healthier planet, and ultimately provide the best quality meat for our customers.

9. Plenty of Space

Each of our pigs enjoys 10,000 sq ft of rotated pasture space, a far cry from the 7.5 sq ft of concrete floor space allotted to CAFO pigs. This space allows our pigs to engage in natural behaviors, contributing to their mental and physical health. To help us, consider for a moment the implications of overcrowded living conditions. Picture a sweatshop packed with workers, each individual trying to navigate the stifling, unhealthy environment. Or imagine a three-bedroom house, crammed with 20 families, each struggling for space, privacy, and basic hygiene. Today, we witness similar situations in densely populated cities around the globe, where people are squeezed into tight quarters, leading to a host of health problems, stress, and lower quality of life.

As humans, the most advanced species on earth, we have the ability to reason, make decisions, and change or modify our living conditions. We understand that such crowded, stressful environments are not conducive to good health or wellbeing. If we recognize this reality for ourselves, why, then, would we impose similar conditions on animals we raise for food?

In Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), livestock are jam-packed into confined spaces much like the human scenarios we've just imagined. These conditions can lead to disease, stress, and a lower quality of life for the animals. We then consume these animals, raising questions about the impact on our own health. If we wouldn't accept these conditions for ourselves, why should we accept them for the animals we rely on for nourishment?

10. No Use of Controversial Additives

We never use additives such as beta-agonists, Ionophore antibiotics, and other chemical manipulators, even if they're FDA-approved. For instance, we refuse to use ractopamine, a drug that promotes lean muscle growth. This drug is commonly used in CAFOs, despite being banned in 160 other countries due to concerns over its safety as previously mentioned. (See Article: Controversial Drug Ractopamine Is Back in the News—And Still in Your Food - https://organicconsumers.org/controversial-drug-ractopamine-back-news-and-still-your-food/). Our refusal to use such additives results in healthier pigs and a safer product for consumers.

By making these comparisons our aim isn’t to point fingers & demonizing any group, it's crucial to realize that blame does not lead to solutions. In fact, it often does the opposite, breeding a contentious environment and, in the worst cases, fostering hatred between groups of people who may not truly understand each other. This only deepens divides and does nothing to address the root of the problem.

What we need is a shift in perspective and understanding. Our aim should be to educate about alternative, healthier, and more humane ways of livestock farming. By choosing pasture-raised, ethically treated livestock, we can make a difference for both the animals and our own health. And it's critically important to remember: This choice does not limit consumer freedom. In a world where it sometimes feels like our choices are being curtailed, and our ability to make educated decisions is limited, this is one area where we do have the power to choose. We have the opportunity to make a decision that aligns with our values, to start today.

We don't just follow these practices because they're the right thing to do; we follow them because they yield a superior product that extends to all livestock produced for meat today, including beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, goat, and others. The taste of our meat is unmanipulated, more natural. There are no food dyes, artificial chemicals or controversial drugs. The nutritional content is higher because no chemicals kill off what nature intended to be there. And when the soil, pastures, and animals are healthy, so is the ecosystem.

This movement towards healthier, more ethical food production isn't just about pigs; it's about changing the entire food system. We encourage consumers to make informed decisions about their food. By supporting local farmers and ranchers that produce real, chemical-free meat, consumers can set the standards for the industry, not multinational corporations focused on bottom-line profits. 

In sharing hard truths like these, we continue to change the food system and build up farms and farmers nationwide. We encourage you to join us in this journey towards a healthier, more ethical food system that benefits all livestock and ultimately, us all. 

regenerative agriculture

Sustainable Food Systems

Ethical Livestock Farming

Pasture-Raised Pork

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