Ramble On

Thursday, January 9, 2014

They're Omnivores Too, You Know

Sacked out pigs, all tucked in and warm out in the poke.
I was amused recently when a friend sent along a link to a New York Times article that featured Joel Salatin – he of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food, Inc. fame – that described his new pork venture.  Mr. Salatin is famous because of his innovative, symbiotic approach to farming, which emphasizes the connections between the land and the animals.  To us city-folk, this is incredible, ground-breaking ag-science, but I suspect that if I were to head out to Page County and engage a friend or two on the topic they’d tell me this was just common sense.

Also, call it ironic or coincidental, I’d received an update on the status of our pigs earlier in the week.  The hogs are growing nicely, and putting about a pound on a week.  David’s had them out in pasture since October (I helped wrangle ‘em, by the way, link here:  http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/search/label/Pig%20Wranglin%27).

So that is the point of my post – pasturing pigs isn’t new, but the popularity of this approach as a contrast to concentrated, industrial operations is.  My pig share is pastured, and I know those swine have a good life out there on the farm.  After three years of this, I’ve learned an element of the respect they deserve is to have a relationship with us – while I wouldn’t go as far as to climb in there and hug them (some do), I do enjoy seeing them in the field and am pretty happy to hear when they’ve been given names.

Incidentally, I’m told the four pigs this year are Kevin Bacon, Lucy, Stevie Yum Yum, and Jim Bacon. I’m not sure if that last one was named after me; if he was, I’m not sure I deserved the honor.  Their time is coming in a month or so, so they’ll continue living the good life out in their field for a little bit longer.

Now, Mr. Salatin’s strategy is to move herds of 50 or so pigs through his pastures and into the hardwood forests that he has retained on his 450 acres in the Shenandoah Valley.  If you want to know more about his methods, he’s got a video you can buy, although you have to get it directly from him – just search on “Polyface Farm” and “pigs.”

The New York Times story didn’t go so far as to talk about how he plans to process those herds of pigs, but for my pig share, I do know how that part of the story goes.  One cold February morning, a team of us will go out to the field and they’ll be dispatched.  Then we’ll haul them to the butchering shed and go to work on the carcasses for two days, emerging with all kinds of chops, roasts, sausage, ham, and bacon. 

That’ll be a fulfilling weekend, I don’t mind saying. 

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