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Who Benefits (or Doesn’t) From Caging Pigs?

September 24, 2012

Many have seen the public discussion about gestation crates in the hog industry and the announcements when one more food company or restaurant agrees not to use them within the next 10 years. I wonder if people will be supportive of increases in costs, or if most realize why gestation crates were instituted in the first place.

Sows can be dangerous and prone to violence against lower ranking members of the herd. Many try to make the pigs human with “how would you like to be in a cage all the time where you can’t even turn around?” I’m not a pig, but I suppose it comes to choices. I also wouldn’t like to be beaten up by a bully every time I approached the dinner table. I think being subjected to assault at the teeth of another roommate might make that protected space be mighty inviting, with food and water and not being bullied. That’s a big reason for gestation crates existing in the first place – sow care.

However, there are many who don’t like the idea of those sows being in a 2’x7′ space for 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days – a little less with moving to the farrowing area just before her due date. And that’s fine. The pens we’re setting up actually will allow sows to move around some, but be in a relatively small area for observation and individual care. This addresses the aggression and sow welfare, which at the same time addresses the ability of the sow to move around. Hogs are actually pretty content with food and water and a space to take a snooze without being bothered. Tending to their basic needs will cost a little more, and it remains to be seen if  there are people actually interested in paying for this – and, with sponsors available no critics have stepped up to take advantage of this voluntarily!

From square one, as regular readers know, we’re a little different. We’ll have a treed area where our pigs can be in a wooded area but still have access to shelter. The big difference is we’ll have a much smaller market, and fewer sows, than those raising on a larger scale. We can do this for 15-20 sows, but not for 3,000. Pigs today have been bred for lean – less fat, which is what the consumer demanded. This, in turn, makes them less able to handle outdoor temperatures than heritage breeds, which is one reason for instituting climate controlled barns to keep the temperature steady.

We’re taking signups now for small farm raised pork – for those who want choices, we offer it. Check out our farm shares, and remember there are food and farm options available. Food prices – and feed prices – are going up. We have a limited service base. There will be 60 pigs fed for spring delivery – first 60 people get pork – after 60 you’ll have to wait until summer or fall delivery. These are choices – we won’t claim it’s better or worse than others as that view is up to YOU! However, we’re doing what we feel is right for the pigs that we have, and for customers who want food choices!

The furor over gestation stalls – “cages” – will pass. It may not have the consequences people think it will. However, it’s done on emotion and politics – not on food choices. McDonald’s and other companies don’t raise their own pigs and chickens, nor do we serve that market. Expecting people to do what we do *and* feed over 310 million people plus those in other countries is unrealistic, I believe, as we’re not about volume. Production yes – but not volume in the aspect of raising 30,000 pigs per year. There are differences. We welcome new customers – spread the word! We’ll even deliver to pickup points in Nashville, Tennessee, St.Louis Missouri, Louisville and Lexington Kentucky and – if demand – Birmingham Alabama and Atlanta Georgia. And maybe, just maybe, beyond! But don’t wait too long.60 is a long ways from 300 million!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2012 3:42 PM

    Thanks for sharing this. You are correct in what you’re saying about the majority of people not knowing why we use gestation stalls in the first place. I’m finding it’s a little hard to teach people though because of their strong feelings towards the pig “not being able to turn around” and towards “factory farmers”. Thanks for spreading the word. Good luck with your pig raising!

    • September 24, 2012 4:41 PM

      Thanks for stopping by. I agree there is much emotion to the stall use.I’ve had some exposure to larger facilities, and the pigs seem healthy and happy, although like all of our animals they get riled up at feeding time! I think a large part of food choices is enabling farm choices as well, and there’s many ways to raise pigs. I remember the outdoor operations in the 1970s and they were quite smelly too with a couple hundred pigs on pasture! That said, I can see reasons for both types of management,but it’s for vastly different preferences and different types of pigs. We look forward to sharing options!

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