Saturday, March 17, 2012

Free-Range Pigs: Doing their piggy thing

I read an article written in 1999 in the magazine "the Art of Eating" written by Edward Behr, issue #51.

Harking back to my tasteful blog last week, Behr states, "Even the taste of pork has changed in the last ten years because almost all pigs have been bred to be lean. Rubbery is the best word to describe the pork; the flavor is bland, so the texture stands out. Occasionally in the supermarket, you can still find some marbled, more tender, and tasty pork, but most is as lean and characterless as factory-chicken breast. The lean meat is almost impossible to cook without making it dry and tough, and, no matter what, the new pork will never taste very good because it isn’t marbled with fat."

In addition to tasting better, he explains that "free-range pig farming" means that pigs are fed no animal byproducts, and receive no massive amounts of antibiotics. Each hog can be monitored for health and treated when a condition arises. There is no need to inject every animal with an unneeded drug.

Behr's article focuses on Paul and Phyliss Willis' farm--the Willis Free-Range Pig Farm. They have worked to keep the family farm viable and raise their animals according to guidelines endorsed by the Animal Welfare Institute. "The AWI, a pragmatic group, worked with farmers to produce a list of simple criteria, largely to do with space and bedding, that are kind to pigs and represent good husbandry. . . The AWI rules are so far from fanatic that there is not even a requirement that animals have access to pasture. But large-scale factory farming is expressly prohibited: “Each farm shall be a family farm, that is, an individual or family member must do all of the following: (a) own the hogs; (b) depend on the farm for [his or her] livelihood; (c) provide the major part of the daily labor to physically manage the hogs and the rest of the farm operation.”

Pretty simple, isn't it? Treat your livestock humanely, let them follow their instincts, and reap the benefits of healthy, nutritious, good-tasting meat.

Oh, by the way, the United Kingdom banned raising hogs in close confinement. Should the United States do any less?

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