|Our "farrowing crate" at South Pork Ranch|
Lots of room, lots of bedding' lots of contentment
A few days ago Terra Brockman http://terrabrockman.com/ contacted me and made me aware of an op-ed piece written in the NY Times by Blake Hurst, President of the Missouri Farm Board.
Terra, knowing my strong belief that hogs (along with many other farm animals) are best raised on pasture knew I would want a chance to share my opinion . She was right. So I did. Unfortunately the Times did not choose my rebuttal for publication.
But, never fear, due to magic of self-promotion through blogation, I have copied my response for you to read right here. Of course to get the whole gist of the issue you must read Mr Hurst's op-ed piece first. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/opinion/happy-pigs-and-unhappy-farmers.html?scp=2&sq=pigs%20mind&st=Search Then after reading mine let me know your thoughts on pastured hogs. Better yet, let the Times know your thoughts. Maybe you'll have better luck at getting their attention than I did.
Pigs I Have Known
By Donna O’Shaughnessy
Dear Mr. Hurst,
Please forgive the tardiness of this invitation, I had intended to send it immediately after reading your op-ed piece, Don’t Presume to Know a Pig’s Mind, published Feb. 19, 2012, but my husband and I are just two farmers on a small Central Illinois farm and we were busy…keeping our pigs happy.
So, if you are not too busy writing over simplified articles about “inefficient” non CAFO family farms like ours, I’d like you to come to our home for a pasture raised pork chop dinner. Before we eat, we’ll give you a tour. You should wear rubber boots and a chore coat as it is nearly springtime and parts of our real farm are muddy with large concrete slabs being in limited supply.
We’ll start outside where 90% of our animals reside. The other 10% are those animals needing to calve or farrow inside due to extreme weather conditions.
You stated in a broad generalization, “But for all we know, pigs are ‘happier’ in warm, dry buildings.” I think Mr. Hurst; you will be pleasantly surprised to see that our animals, which have access to good shelter at all times, will choose to stay outside. Often reclining in the mud, basking in the sunshine, lounging in the rain, or standing shoulder to hip in the middle of their pasture in the midst of a heavy snowstorm, I find it easy to evaluate their happiness. One indicator; they are not screaming, another, they have no open sores on their legs and feet from standing or lying for months at a time on hard surfaces. A third sign, (related to our pregnant sows) their mouths are not bleeding from the endless bar chewing due to the mind blowing boredom of being confined in a 2 foot by 2 foot gestation crate.
When you visit, there will be no need to wear boot covers, masks, or vinyl gloves. Our herd has a very strong immune system, and besides, when scratching behind the ears of our 600 pound Red Wattle Boar Mad Max, rubber gloves will just decrease the pleasure…for him and you. Yes, I said “pleasure.” Our animals do feel pleasure. How do we know since they do not speak? They demonstrate their feelings.
They sleep well. They eat well. They play with each other.They nuzzle their babies. They cuddle with their bunkmates. They run. They jump. Their coats shine and their eyes sparkle.
Your comment, “either way, the end result, is a plate,” is profoundly bizarre. Are you saying that because the animal’s primary raison d’etre is solely to provide us with a source of protein; it makes no difference the conditions in which the meat is raised? I am sure you are aware extensive research has been done regarding the decrease in meat quality as animal stress increases.
Regarding your gestation crate comments, I must again encourage you to get out of the confinement buildings and onto real soil. Are you so removed from natural animal behavior that you have forgotten the well-known phenomenon of “pecking order?” Neither good nor bad, pecking orders serve a real purpose of identifying animals of strength and preference for future breeding. And with adequate space and food, each animal is able to consume what it needs for good health. Your belief that animals get into “violent fights” at feeding time can only be a result of your lack of pasture farm visits. “Grouping together in pens” is not the same thing as pastured life; it is just confinement with a cloud ceiling.
We run an honest farm business here. It is not a hobby, nor is it part of “the entertainment industry” Our prices are comparable to non-organic farms in our area and less than the certified organic competitors. Our 2011 profit per hundred weight of pork was $75-$100,a decent return as compared to the CAFO’s profit of less than $20 per hundredweight. So much Mr. Hurst for your belief that preventing the problems associated with pastured hog farms are, “complicated, expensive and dangerous to the pigs.” Thus the reason we encourage you tovisit us. What better way to assess the happiness of a hog than to visit him in his home?
Which makes me wonder, Mr. Hurst, are there any confinement farms in your area actively inviting visitors? Generally when you are proud ofyour farm you enjoy sharing it with others. Just a thought.