I decided a couple of months ago that we are going to raise pigs this year. Just a handful, enough to feed our family and a bit extra to sell to our farm's customers.
Almost all pork is now raised in confinement barns.... another CAFO (confined animal feedlot operation) scenario, just like the caged chickens & confined cows. I would guess 99% of pork is raised this way, and definitely 100% of regular grocery-store pork.
We'll be raising our pigs differently - outdoors, with access to the fresh air & sunshine, allowed to live a good life and act like the piggies they are.
So, once I decided to raise pigs, I began researching - reading lots of books. I decided we'll start with feeder pigs - basically these are weaned baby pigs (about 2 months old), purchased from another farm, and "fed out" on our farm until they reach market weight.
No problem, right? Wrong. I had a heck of a time finding feeder pigs! It turns out that most farmers aren't raising hogs anymore... it's all gone the industrial farm route (huge confinement operations). Now, I was put in contact with a few of these farmers and spoke with them. They're neighbors, farmers trying to make a living, and of course I respect that. However, a hybrid pig bred for confinement just wasn't what I was looking for.
So I contacted a farmer about 1 hour away. I had visited his farm last fall to view his pastured chickens & turkeys, he's in line with the same type of farming we do here at Wishful Acres. I knew he also raised cows & hogs, I had purchased some of his pork when I was there and it was the best pork I'd ever had.
I knew the breed of pig I wanted: English heritage Berkshire! If you're unfamiliar, Berkshire is to pork what Angus is to beef. The highest quality, most delicious pork... it even looks different from traditional pork - the fat is marbled throughout the meat like a good beef steak. And the taste... delicious! Especially the pork raised in good, humane, outdoor conditions. What a difference!
Turns out this farm is raising a Berkshire breed crossed with another couple of heritage breeds. And... we'll be buying a handful of feeder pigs from him! The lovely heritage Berkshire / Duroc / White Chester crossed pigs will make their appearance here on our farm in early May!