Sustainable Pork Tour

Piglet via aspicyperspective.com

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.

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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.

Sows via Aspicyperspective.com

Sows in gestation crates, waiting to be bred.

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.

Boar via Aspicyperspetive.com

A boar walks the aisle, getting the sows ready for artificial insemination. (You would have thought you were watching Elvis Presley walk through a crowd of female fans.) A.I. is the safest method of breeding the sows… safest for the sows and the farmers.

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.

Wuebker Farm via aspicyperspective.com

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.

Sommer Collier via Aspicyperspective.com

Me feeding the sows.

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.

farrowing crates via aspicyperspective.com

Although the farrowing crates look restrictive, they force the 500 pound sows to lay down slowly, greatly reducing the death rate in piglets.

newborn piglets via aspicyperspective.com

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.

Jeff Wuebker via aspicyperspective.com

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.

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150 comments on “Sustainable Pork Tour

  1. Mikeposted August 8, 2012 at 1:06 am Reply

    Great article, one of the most balanced and honest I’ve ever read. People should know where their food comes from – their meat isn’t made there in the supermarket.

    I don’t eat a lot of pork, but get to craving pork chops every now and then, love to grill them.

    ( I don’t eat much pork for several reasons, but the main one is I used to raise and show pigs back in h.s. There are not many baby animals cuter than a piglet!)

    • Stellaposted August 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm Reply

      Great article; very well balanced. Where can I purchase pork that comes from their farm? How do I know that I am getting pork from a farm that is trying to be sustainable?

  2. karenposted August 8, 2012 at 6:21 am Reply

    Very informative. Thanks. I am trying to eat better food, especially meat. Too many ways to eat pork to pick just one…I like to saute’ boneless chops and make a pan sauce of some kind. Also just a basic loin roast rubbed and grilled with balsamic onions on the side. Thanks

  3. Kelposted August 8, 2012 at 6:32 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing that. I usually marinade and grill pork….

  4. Kelposted August 8, 2012 at 6:33 am Reply

    And I am a RSS subscriber. thanks!

  5. Paulineposted August 8, 2012 at 6:48 am Reply

    What a great article- loved the writing and how honest and informative you were!

    I like my pork slow cooked- either in the oven or boiled for hours and made into pork and yam (wow, my heritage definitely is influencing me here).

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Paulineposted August 8, 2012 at 6:48 am Reply

    I’m also an RSS subscriber!

  7. Shelby N.posted August 8, 2012 at 7:19 am Reply

    My husband and I are “baconholics”. We LOVE bacon! We even named our dog Bacon lol. We usually cook it in the oven to keep the mess to a minimum and you just can’t best a plain old BLT. Or BLT pizza…. Yum!

    • Sommerposted August 8, 2012 at 1:26 pm Reply

      Shelby, Hilarious. I wish I would have thought I’d that!

  8. Shelby N.posted August 8, 2012 at 7:22 am Reply

    Pinned this!

  9. Shelby N.posted August 8, 2012 at 7:23 am Reply

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  10. Shelby N.posted August 8, 2012 at 7:25 am Reply

    I tweeted!

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  13. Angieposted August 8, 2012 at 7:30 am Reply

    I loved this post Sommer! Great information and beautiful photos! It’s sad so many people don’t know that growth hormones aren’t given to hogs, or chickens on another note. I think it’s the old dairy cows that are filled with hormones to increase their milk production, and then sent to slaughter when old or sick that are messing people up with the hormones, which accounts for far too much of our cheap beef.

  14. Joannposted August 8, 2012 at 7:37 am Reply

    Tenderloin with a spice rub on the grill!

  15. Isabelposted August 8, 2012 at 7:45 am Reply

    Soooo many great ways to prepare pork. My favorite right now (when it’s 100-115 every day outside) is in the slow cooker!

  16. Isabelposted August 8, 2012 at 7:46 am Reply

    I follow ASP on RSS.

  17. Brian @ A Thought For Foodposted August 8, 2012 at 8:16 am Reply

    You make some great points here, Sommer and even though I don’t eat meat, I’m right there with you. I think the main issue is the excessive amounts of meat people eat. Meat should be something that’s consumed only a couple times a week. I think a general diet change would make a huge difference.

  18. Jennaposted August 8, 2012 at 8:37 am Reply

    I like to put it in the crockpot with onions all day. That makes it nice and tender with no hassle.

  19. Jennaposted August 8, 2012 at 8:37 am Reply

    I follow you on twitter.

  20. Kari Mposted August 8, 2012 at 8:41 am Reply

    I love the cutting board! My favorite way to prepare pork is bacon! Enough said.

  21. Mariaposted August 8, 2012 at 9:09 am Reply

    Great article, making me rethink eating meat again, which is why I “disconnect”…you’re right, much easier that way. I gave up pork during college and kept it up for 6 years, then I had bacon and that was the end of it! I really love the flavor of pork but don’t buy it or cook it much. Making a pork roast is my favorite (pernil in Spanish), it’s a must at family gatherings.

    • Sommerposted August 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm Reply

      Hey Maria, please no need to feel swayed by me! We are pork lovers and I have no agenda to get anyone to think one way or another.

      I simply believe it’s important to stay in touch with our food sources. It makes us more respectful of the animals and the farmers.

  22. Racheleposted August 8, 2012 at 9:20 am Reply

    Pulled Pork Sandwiches in the slow cooker

  23. Virginia Covatiposted August 8, 2012 at 9:32 am Reply

    Great, informative post! Pork is prepared every possible way in my home. My husband has perfected a stuffed pork roast porchetta style. Yum!

  24. Melissaposted August 8, 2012 at 10:43 am Reply

    I love to marinate pork tenderloin and then have the hubby grill it! Great article!

  25. Tabathia Bposted August 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm Reply

    I usually let it marinate and put either in a slow cooker or if its chops I put in pan

    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

  26. Tabathia Bposted August 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm Reply
  27. Tabathia Bposted August 8, 2012 at 12:18 pm Reply

    pinterest follower (chelleb40)

  28. Tabathia Bposted August 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm Reply
  29. Elaineposted August 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm Reply

    I loved this article–well articulated! (And I won’t lie: I read this during lunch. A lunch of pork.) My favorite way to SERVE pork is probably a thick, bone-in chop, pan-seared and plated with chimichurri or a balsamic reduction. But to EAT pork? It’s hard to top Jimon Iberico.

  30. Tabathia Bposted August 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm Reply

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  33. Lauraposted August 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm Reply

    Thanks for a great article. Nice to know where your food comes from.

    I like pork loin rubbed with honey and mustard and rolled in finely chopped pecans and then baked.

  34. Elle H.posted August 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm Reply

    I
    A few years ago an article appeared in the local Raleigh NC newspaper featuring pictures of how hogs are raised and kept and it turned me off from pork ever since. The only pork products I would consider eating come from heritage pigs or those raised organically and not on large farms – that is my personal opinion and I am not asking for agreement or validation – just expressing my feelings. And this is not entry for the giveaway.

    • Sommerposted August 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm Reply

      Hey Elle, you are more than welcome to express your opinions. :)

  35. Monica Burkeposted August 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm Reply

    I come from Cuban parents. Pork is the main meat in our culture and we eat it at least once a week. We love to prepare it every Christmas in a caja china by marinating and basting it with the same marinade: freshly squeezed sour oranges juice (or 1/2 lime and 1/2 orange juice), garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Roast slowly utnil the meat fall off when pulled with a fork. Yummm!!!!!!!!! Serve with yuca (cassava) with onions and mojo and of course white rice and black beans. Buen Provecho!!!!!

    • Sommerposted August 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm Reply

      Monica, that sounds AMAZING!

  36. Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm Reply

    I like to make pulled pork BarBQ by cooking Boston butt in the slow cooker. Thanks for the informative post. And thanks for the giveaway.

    • Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm Reply

      I ad incorrect email address showing in previous comment. Correct address is elaine1255(at)yahoo(dot)com

      • Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm

        Had

  37. Cristinaposted August 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm Reply

    I agree that farmers need our support– but mostly they need support against the feed and other massive companies who pidgeon-hole them into a system in order to guarantee their supply line and even their customer base.
    So I agree that there is room for improvement, mostly that animals need t be raised in a humane way. A cubicle for the duration of one’s life is not on anyone’s plans. Why should we think that animals can endure that sort of prison without stress, anguish and sickness as a result? I think this can be the next item on farmers’ list, since many more conscientious ones have included many positive changes.
    Humans, as you said in the article prefer to ignore, ignore, ignore the conditions of our food sources, but will gladly lavish their pets in many ways. What makes Fido more worthy of a fenced in back yard and clean bedding?
    I do looove pork though, and like many others who posted, I only eat organic, grazing animals.

  38. Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm Reply

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  39. Cristinaposted August 8, 2012 at 12:59 pm Reply

    Another way we can support them is to support local Farmers Markets– they can market their animals and produce directly, and should be able to implement more humane practices. This will raise the cost of production, but they also cut the middleman, so in the end it should be a win-win.
    This is easier said than done, and not all farmers are close enough to consumer centers, but that is another positive action– support your local farmers– then, slowly, you demand better practices from them.
    I do love pork: clean, lean and tasty.
    I love to roast them in a thick marinade.

  40. Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm Reply

    I pinned on Pinterest. Sebh

  41. Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm Reply

    I tweeted about the giveaway. @sebh55

  42. Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 1:01 pm Reply

    I shared on FB. Susan Brown Hatcher

  43. Cristinaposted August 8, 2012 at 1:01 pm Reply

    Elaine: JAMON Iberico. Yes, cured in the traditional Spanish style in irresistible!

  44. Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 1:02 pm Reply

    I see where I can ake separate entries now by teway I follow. Earlier post had them all showing. That one will now just be for FB.

  45. Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm Reply

    I subscribe to your emails.

  46. Cristinaposted August 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm Reply

    I like to marinate overnight, regardless of the cut. It makes it tasty and tender. You diversify (make it in different ways) the next day when you are ready to make the dish.

  47. Cristinaposted August 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm Reply

    Pork chops: seared or on the grill, with lost of veggies and/or a salad.

  48. Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm Reply

    I follow you on Pinterest.

  49. Cristinaposted August 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm Reply

    Por sausage– only the leanest, made to order from our local grower, no fillers, not much fat — is a must in chili, or in pasta sauce (tomato-based, garlic, spices)

  50. Susan H.posted August 8, 2012 at 1:07 pm Reply

    I follow you on Twitter. @sebh55

  51. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.posted August 8, 2012 at 1:12 pm Reply

    great post and giveaway girl!

  52. barbara nposted August 8, 2012 at 1:20 pm Reply

    I love pulled pork sandwiches!

  53. barbara nposted August 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm Reply

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  54. mlbposted August 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm Reply

    Thanks for a great article. We love pulled pork.

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  59. BusyWorkingMamaposted August 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm Reply

    I love pulled BBQ pork in a crock pot

  60. BusyWorkingMamaposted August 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm Reply

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  63. Micposted August 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm Reply

    Bacon is good on everything. Thanks for the article.

  64. BusyWorkingMamaposted August 8, 2012 at 2:04 pm Reply

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  65. Micposted August 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm Reply

    I pin you often. Thanks for the great content. Making BLT pizza tonight now.

  66. Gailposted August 8, 2012 at 2:48 pm Reply

    Forgot – also pinned you.

  67. Gailposted August 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm Reply

    Shared on FB – tweeted it – and follow you thru email.

    My favorite way to prepare pork – saute chops w/fresh sage and brown in olive oil then add crushed tomatoes and simmer – serve w/pasta – also love Giadas Parm boneless chops and love the grill w/an ancho chili rub and serve with mango or peach salsa or chutney – YUMMMM

  68. Jen @ Juanita's Cocinaposted August 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm Reply

    My favorite way to prepare is to make carnitas! We’re having them tonight!

  69. Jen @ Juanita's Cocinaposted August 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm Reply

    I tweeted your giveaway!

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  71. Patriciaposted August 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm Reply

    I like to slow cook pork!

  72. Patriciaposted August 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm Reply
  73. Jenneposted August 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm Reply

    I like to make carnitas, pork stirfy with mango and curry, and pulled pork sandwiches.

  74. Jenneposted August 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm Reply

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  75. Jenneposted August 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm Reply
  76. Maggieposted August 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm Reply

    I loved this article, very infomative. I am a pork fanatic and love to eat it any what that I can. My favorite this season is to season a tenderloin. slow roasted on the grill, 5 minutes before finished slather Apricot jam mixed with Bourbon. To die for!!!!!!

  77. Cindy B.posted August 8, 2012 at 4:08 pm Reply

    I LOVE grilled pork ribs!!

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  84. Coriposted August 8, 2012 at 4:24 pm Reply

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  85. Coriposted August 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm Reply

    Bacon!!

  86. Shawn @ I Wash...You Dryposted August 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm Reply

    Too funny with the male pig! HA! I love pork, and if it’s pork chops, then they are grilled! Bacon – in the oven. Tenderloin – oven. Carnitas – crock pot! YUM!

  87. Kiran @ KiranTarun.composted August 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm Reply

    Great experience and knowledge about where our foods are coming from :)

  88. Cynthiaposted August 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm Reply

    Great article. I like it in the crock pot.

  89. Erin @ The Spiffy Cookieposted August 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm Reply

    After seeing that adorable pig I don’t know if I can have a favorite way to prepare it in my kitchen! But that aside, I love me some bacon. Sorry piggy.

  90. Erin @ The Spiffy Cookieposted August 8, 2012 at 8:22 pm Reply

    I tweeted about the giveaway

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  95. Chrisposted August 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm Reply

    Dry rub pork tenderloin and refrigerate for24 hours. Then on to the smoker for a 6fifth hour mesquite smokedown. The best!

  96. [email protected] My Kitchen in the Rockiesposted August 8, 2012 at 9:14 pm Reply

    Hi Sommer, thanks for this article. It confirms everything I already knew about pig farms. It looks like the farm you visited is one of the top notch mass producing farms and their animals have it probably better than most out there. I personally haven’t supported any mass producing meat farms in a long time. I purchase my pork from a farmer close to Pueblo, CO. He raises his pigs outside in pasture. We hardly eat pork. And, yes, I love a good slice of bacon,too, but not from animals that have to live like that. It makes me sad looking at the pictures you took. These poor animals aren’t even allowed to turn around. My opinion is that we as a society have to rethink the way we eat and be aware of where our food comes from. I totally agree with your statement that we have a much bigger issue on our hands. Kirsten

  97. Stephanieposted August 8, 2012 at 11:07 pm Reply

    My favorite way to prepare pork (at least this summer) has been to grill chops inside & outside on the bbq after letting them marinade in some fresh rosemary (off my new plant) with olive oil and fresh course salt & pepper. Pork is amazing with fresh herbs!! Great article. That’s a good point about growth hormones and antibiotics being not used often in pigs – media does like to twist and spin everything. Love your blog!

  98. Stephanieposted August 8, 2012 at 11:10 pm Reply

    I shared your blog article on fb.

  99. Meghan Finleyposted August 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm Reply

    I love pork roast with potatoes and carrots

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  105. Michael J. McCoyposted August 9, 2012 at 4:04 am Reply

    Love to smoke dry rubbed pork tenderloin!!!!!!!

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  108. MaryBethposted August 9, 2012 at 4:29 am Reply

    Great info! I live in a family of bacon-lovers, so I treat them to it once or twice per month. And I enjoy pulled pork prepared in the crock pot with a sweet BBQ sauce.

  109. Karen Sueposted August 9, 2012 at 7:08 am Reply

    We love pork steak and country style ribs.

  110. Celiaposted August 9, 2012 at 8:25 am Reply

    My favorite pork recipe involves cutting a tenderloin in thin slices, and then fast sautéing it. A sauce is made with balsamic vinegar and dried cranberries. My aunt made up the recipe, and it is wonderful.

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  113. Cassieposted August 9, 2012 at 9:16 am Reply

    What a fun adventure!! I would love to do something like this. We love to smoke pork tenderloin with spicy dry rubs!

  114. Kathy - Panini Happyposted August 9, 2012 at 10:41 am Reply

    I totally made a piggie cutting board just like that in seventh grade woodshop (my mom still uses it, lol). I’m definitely a bacon fan – I also made some pretty amazing Italian meatballs the other day, with a combination of ground pork and beef.

  115. Sarah Lposted August 9, 2012 at 10:42 am Reply

    I love to grill pork chops. It’s simple, but so delicious.

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  117. Robyn Stone | Add a Pinchposted August 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm Reply

    Your first photo just got me, Sommer!

  118. stephposted August 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm Reply

    i love pulled pork!

  119. stephposted August 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm Reply
  120. Paula - bell'alimentoposted August 10, 2012 at 10:07 am Reply

    Is there a bad way to eat pork? I think not!

  121. Carolynposted August 10, 2012 at 10:37 am Reply

    I am a pork-aholic too and I find it heartening that they are trying to work at sustainable farming!

  122. MIss @ Miss in the Kitchenposted August 11, 2012 at 9:09 pm Reply

    Love this Sommer! It is so important to know where our food comes and I love your honesty.

  123. Donna Gposted August 12, 2012 at 6:59 pm Reply

    My favorite way to eat pork lately is shredded – half a loin (about 2 pounds) cooked in the crockpot all day with a bottle of Country Bob’s. Yum.

  124. Kristinposted August 12, 2012 at 7:51 pm Reply

    I really love pork tenderloin…cooked any way, but especially rubbed with cajun seasoning and roasted with fresh veggies!

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  130. Susan in the Booniesposted August 13, 2012 at 8:28 am Reply

    We love to grill our pork tenderloin in a mojo sauce.With a pork loin roast, I’ll brine it with a salt, sugar, garlic and juniper berry brine. My husband smokes pork shoulder roast.

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  134. Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchenposted August 13, 2012 at 11:57 am Reply

    My favorite way to prepare it is as pulled pork – a pork shoulder cooked low and slow in a dutch oven is soooo delicious!

  135. Krissyposted August 15, 2012 at 9:33 am Reply

    I love to make baked pork chops.

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    I shared this giveaway link on my facebook.

  142. Susan H.posted August 18, 2012 at 4:16 am Reply

    Thanks again for the giveaway and the win.