Friday, February 26, 2010

Answering a Few Questions...

There have been a few questions in the comments section of some recent posts that I haven't had a chance to answer yet, so I decided I would just take a moment today to throw up some of my thoughts/answers.

Earlier this week Rich asked, "Now that you have raised purebred heritage pigs, cross-bred heritage pigs, and conventional pigs on pasture have you noticed that the heritage pigs actually do significantly better on pasture? (and) What about meat quality? How does the meat from purebred pigs compare in taste, etc. to convention crossbred pigs raised on pasture?"

Well, we have gone through a few cycles of pigs now but I wouldn't say that we have raised anything truly conventional out on pasture. By that I mean that all the pigs that we have raised here (even if they weren't heritage breeds) have come from at the very least an outdoor based situation. So, they have naturally been more adapted to the outside. I doubt that if we purchased some three-way crosses from a local confinement operation we would have the same results. That being said I do feel that they have all been fairly competent at foraging, although the Hampshire/Berkshire crosses were probably the least impressive.

You will find though that you get a faster growing pig and probably larger litter sizes with the added benefits of heterosis that the crossbreds have. That is just the nature of things and does make a difference.

As far as taste goes ... I'm not sure if I'm the best judge, but our customers have been very pleased. At a drop-off the other day though I was talking to a chef (who loves Berkshire pork the most I think) and I think he had something when he said that in his mind much of the taste can come from the way the animal was raised. Of course there are bred differences and you can look at blind taste tests to see heritage breeds often score at the top, but there is something to be said for the way an animal was raised.

In the comment section of my post regarding Michael Pollan's lecture in Iowa Rob asked what some of the things that I disagree with Michael Pollan were.

The most obvious depart I have from Mr. Pollan is how the animals became they way they are with their incredible ability to do just the things that they need to do for themselves and the environment around them. I believe they were created that way ... he doesn't. But, that doesn't discredit him in my book and hopefully it wouldn't discredit me in his.

As I said, I agree with most of what he says but I'm fearful that he comes across as a bit elitist. Some of that is not his fault and just the circumstances of being a journalist that has decided to go against conventional agriculture, but I also feel that some of it comes from the way that he attacks the problem. I'm not always sure what the best approach is (so saying that may be hypocritical), but I do say there is something for going about it the way the King Corn guys did it ... by bringing in both sides to the discussion.

Finally ... Rich, I'll try to get a picture of me next to some of my cows!


Rich said...

It has been so wet this winter that the cattle have turned parts of the pastures into mud-holes.

After slogging through the mud today, I thought to myself that it couldn't be any muddier if I had a bunch of pigs rooting around. Which leads me to wonder what a pasture or enclosed lot actually looks like after pigs have been on it during the winter.

Any pictures, thoughts, or suggestions about pigs on pasture or in a lot during a wet and muddy winter?

Ethan Book said...

Rich -

Well, I can't show you any pictures because our dirt/ground/mud is buried and frozen below way to much snow and ice! But, yes they will work it up pretty good and dig some nice holes give time over the winter (or any season for that matter). Again this year I'm going to plant sweet corn where the pigs have spent most of their time during the winter ... it should give us a nice harvest.

No matter how much the pigs "graze" on a pasture though they are going to live out their piggyness and make some wallows to hang out it. It's just what they do. Like others I have our pigs in areas that we want to rehab or I move them quite often.

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