7 Reasons to Eat Pastured Pork
Pork gets a bad rap and, as hog farmers, we couldn't agree more!
It comes down to how they're raised. A staggering 97% of hogs in the U.S. are raised in giant confinement barns, housing upwards of 2,500 hogs at one time. These animals live on hard floors and never see the light of day. Their waste is stored in lagoons which are vulnerable to spillage, and the sheer amount of which creates problems for disposal. These crowded living conditions also necessitate the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics to keep the hogs alive.
To us, the worst part is how the nature of this animal is stifled by such operations. An animal which has the intelligence of a three-year-old human, which is friendly, playful, and curious is reduced to a commodity, worth only as much as its feed conversion ratio.
But there's a better way. See why we're committed to raising our heritage breed hogs on pasture, and why you should demand that of your pork also!
Higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids
Most health experts recommend a diet with a 4:1 ratio of omega 6:3 fatty acids— as omega 6s contribute to inflammatory processes in the body— while the average American diet has a ratio closer to 30:1 of these fatty acid groups!
While the omega 6:3 ratio of conventionally-raised pork is around 20:1, this number can be cut by 60% by raising the hogs on pasture, where they have access to a diverse diet, in addition to eating grain.
Read more about Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids here!
Higher levels of antioxidants
Pork from pasture-raised pigs contains twice the amount of vitamin E—which is important for heart, skin, hormonal, and brain health—as pork from confined hogs, as well as greater amounts of selenium—which is necessary for detoxification and thyroid health.
Higher levels of vitamin D
Technically a hormone, vitamin D is a hot topic in health and nutrition worlds for a good reason: it's critical for a dizzying number of functions in our bodies such as hormone balance, immune function, inflammation control, calcium metabolism, bone and muscle health, and more. And almost everyone is deficient in it.
While there are a number of reasons behind this widespread deficiency, inadequate dietary intake is a big one.
And guess what? The meat and fat from hogs raised on pasture (i.e. exposed to sunlight) can have three times the amount of vitamin D as their conventionally-raised counterparts. In fact, the USDA lists lard from pastured hogs as a top food source of this vitamin!
Better for the pig
No animal deserves confinement, but especially one as intelligent as the pig.
Pigs raised on pasture are not only healthier, but they're allowed to exercise, wallow in mud, root around, explore, and be pigs!
Better for the environment
Pigs may not be grazing animals in the sense that ruminants like cows, sheep, and bison are, but still consume large amounts of forage, when given the chance, providing beneficial stress to their environment by chomping and stomping plants.
And remember the manure lagoons from hog confinement operations that we mentioned earlier? These deserve an entire post due to the implications of their impacts, but importantly they pose a significant environmental threat to soil and groundwater due to their spillage and disposal.
The number of pigs on pasture, on the other hand, are naturally limited by the carrying capacity of the land, and are frequently rotated so that their manure is a beneficial fertilizer for the land, rather than a detriment.
Better for public health
The WHO has declared antibiotic resistance one of the top 10 global public health threats and, while overuse in humans certainly adds to that, factory farming of livestock and poultry is recognized as a main contributor.
Pigs raised in crowded, unsanitary confinement conditions must be given regular antibiotics to keep them alive. Through antibiotic residues in their meat and contamination of soil and waterways from manure lagoons, conventionally-raised hogs are a clear offender in this regard.
In contrast to this, hogs raised on pasture rarely, if ever, need antibiotics. Out of the many hundreds of hogs we've raised at TWF, the only antibiotics we've ever used were in our first year when we unknowingly purchased sickly feeder pigs from a confinement operation. When raised outdoors with proper shelter and a healthy diet, these animals thrive with a mostly hands-off approach.
Heritage and rare breed preservation
Conventional pig breeds were bred for confinement. They resulted from generations of selective breeding for quick weight gain and lean meat—traits that came at the expense of hardiness, parasite resistance, and flavor.
At Trillium Wood Farm we select for pigs who are healthy, great mothers, who flourish on pasture, and have flavorful meat (who said pork was the other white meat?). Our goal has always been to raise animals who have a purpose, and the quality of whose meat we stand behind with every fiber of our being.
Read more about the importance of preserving livestock breed diversity at The Livestock Conservancy.
See the difference for yourself!