If you’ve ever read my About page, you know I am a self-proclaimed pork-aholic. I love pork. Bacon, ham, tenderloin, chops, pork shoulder, sausage… I’ve never met a pork product I didn’t like.
Therefore I felt it would be beneficial to learn more about how pigs are farmed here in the US.
The meat industry has taken some hits over the last few years. Although there are always areas that need correction, I believe this comes from a general disconnect between eating and farming, as well as misrepresentation from the media.
Let me explain. In modern society, most of us live in urban areas and have no connection to, or real frame of reference for, modern farming techniques. We may, on a weekend, drive to the country to visit a local apple orchard, lush, green, and somewhat commercialized for visitors. We see a white farmhouse trimmed in green and a weathered red barn in the distance, with a few stalls for sheep, a cow, and a couple pigs. We think this is what a farm is supposed to look like.
We’ve had a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs that morning, but we never allow our minds wonder what will be done with the animals we see on this picturesque little farm. Instead, we want to stay disconnected from our food sources. It’s easier that way.
We assume that any farm that does not look just like this, or have miles of fresh green grass for the animals to frolic in, is in the wrong.
The problem is, we don’t take into account that small farms like this cannot possibly feed America.
They simply cannot produce the quantities of food it takes to sustain the greater part of the population who wants nothing to do with farming. In recent years, there are less and less families that are willing to spend their lives farming. Therefore those that do, have to produce massive amounts of produce and stock to feed the rest of us.
As for misrepresentation of the media, we see photos that are taken out of context, and hear remarks from well-meaning friends about articles they’ve read on animal treatment or hormones in meat. We automatically believe their statements are true.
I’m not saying big farms don’t have plenty of room for improvement. I simply believe we’ve got a much larger issue on our hands.
American farmers have a burdensome weight on their shoulders. They are not only responsible for feeding us, they feed other nations that rely on us as well. They are to do this without fail, regardless of the changing weather patterns, rising feed prices, and limited land. We firmly expect them to produce endless resources for our grocery carts and keep the prices low.
No wonder so few families are willing to take on the daunting task of farming.
I recently took a trip to Wuebker Family Farm in Versailles, Ohio. Farmers Jeff and Alan Wuebker raise pigs, lots of pigs.
Approximately 43,000 weaned pigs come off their farm each year. The Wuebker brothers won an Environmental Stewardship Award last year for their efforts in sustainable farming. This annual award is presented to farmers who are progressively working to protect air, land and water quality.
Jeff and Alan have gained respect by giving respect. They treat their employees, land, and animals with great consideration and it shows.
The Wuebkers use: evaporative cooling cells in their barns to keep the sows and piglets comfortable through the blistering hot summer months, a watering system to refresh the sow’s water supply, and special farrowing crates to protect the piglets.
Although the farrowing crates look restrictive, they force the 500 pound sows to lay down slowly, greatly reducing the death rate in piglets.
The Wuebkers also rely on a super-efficient lighting system and free natural light in the barns. They grow and mill their own feed, using manure as fertilizer. That way, they can keep feed costs low and quality high.
Watch this video clip to learn more about the Wuebker Family Farm.
I learned a lot from Jeff and Alan Wuebker, and felt many of my concerns were addressed.
Did you know that growth hormones are NEVER used in pigs? They are illegal and have been for some time. Antibiotics are rarely administered and only to very sick pigs. Alan Wuebker explained that farmers don’t want to give antibiotics to their animals. They are very expensive, therefore used sparingly.
Although the Wuebker Farm didn’t quite match the romanticized picture I had in my head, they are doing a remarkable job of feeding our nation in a responsible way. They are the first to tell you their is always room for improvement, and have proved to be a leader in sustainable efforts in their state.
Disclosure: The National Pork Board is providing the giveaway today. No monetary compensation was received for this post–these are strictly my thoughts and opinions after my experience on the Wuebker Farm.