While we have to give credit to the local farmers who take the time to raise their pigs in an outdoor setting and not confine them in large dark buildings, we feel we have to point out that ‘natural’ pork is very different from organic pork. There are many aspects to consider beyond outside vs. inside hogs.
Some natural pork producers are very committed to the environment and meat quality while others are only a step above the confinement operation. Even if pigs are raised on pasture they may not be much better off that the ones inside. If the farmer is raising the same fast growing breeds as the CAFO, crowding them together on a sparse pasture, feeding high protein ration (with minerals, hormones, and antibiotics), regularly treating with worming medicine, and using GMO corn and soy feed, the pork is not going to taste very natural. This type of operation is still putting too many animals together and keeping them in an unhealthy environment.
Some natural pork producers will go a step better and give the pigs more space and rotate them on fresh pastures, but the pigs are still getting the same GMO feed, antibiotics, hormones, and medicines. The big issue comes with the feeding system. You may not realize this but pigs can be lazy. If you put an unlimited supply of high energy grain out for them, they will take the majority of their nutrition from the trough, even if they have lush pasture under foot.
Other natural pork producers will go a couple steps better and source non GMO feeds, eliminate the hormones, and take the antibiotics out of the daily feed ration. But they still give the hogs as much as they can eat from the auto feeders. The hog is fed grain that was grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It over eats and grows at an unnatural rate. It is given antibiotics when it gets sick and is regularly wormed with chemicals. The feed is grown in conventional fields with conventional impact on the environment, and it is often trucked and transported many miles using even more fossil fuels.
With certified organic pork you know how the grain was grown and you know how the hog was fed organic feed free of synthetic inputs. You don’t have to ask me and I don’t have to explain it to you, because the standards are defined by the National Organic Program, and MOSA certifies that I followed those standards. With natural pork you need to ask your farmer about his production practices because there are no enforced standards for ‘naturally raised hogs’.
Certified organic meat is hard to find, and when you find it, it is far more expensive than the natural or pastured pork on the shelves of your coop. Remember, you usually get what you pay for. If the pork you are buying is exceptionally cheaper than the organic pork, that farmer had to cut costs somewhere. If you are buying non organic pork, be sure to ask a few question of your producer:
The regular use of wormers and antibiotics is a pretty good sign that there are too many animals too close together. If pigs are given fresh pasture and regularly rotated at a proper density, worms and illness are rare. Hogs have evolved with their mouths in the dirt most of their life. They find nutrition in a zone one foot above and one foot below the soil line. They are omnivores that can adapt to just about any food source so long as they get a variety of plants and access to the soil. This incredibly adaptable animal does not need antibiotics, synthetic hormones, worming medications, or isolation from potential pathogens as the confinement producers claim. These are methods needed to keep sick animals alive that are in a high stress, low activity lifestyle, with a high calorie diet!
Call or email if you are interested in meat from our happy healthy orchard raised hogs.