Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pigs have food issues

We've all heard that feeding corn to beef cattle isn't good for them; large amounts of grain like corn causes acidosis. And although pretty much everyone agrees that corn-fed beef has superior taste, we've been conditioned to have a knee-jerk reaction that corn-fed meat in general is bad, grass-fed is good. However, this is not true of pork. Please bear with me as I step briefly onto my soap box to explain.

OK here it is, the big difference between pigs and cows: Cattle are ruminants, pigs are not. A cow's elaborate system of four stomachs (the word "ruminant" is derived from "rumen," the cow's first stomach) is designed to efficiently convert grasses and legumes into muscle. Pigs, on the other hand, not only love corn, they positively thrive on it. Our Tamworth pigs, being the champion rooters of the pig world, definitely love being on pasture or even in the woods, but we do also feed them organic, non-GMO grain, including corn. Usually they will eat a wet grain mash first thing in the morning, but after a few minutes of that they head off for a busy morning of rooting.

Like all our animals, we try to give the pigs as natural a life as possible, while balancing their needs and preferences with our desire to keep them safe and healthy. Pigs (especially Tamworths) love to root, so we provide them with plenty of pasture to plow up. Right now, their paddock extends into the edge of a wooded area as well, so they have quite a variety of interesting roots to divide their attention among.

From all we have learned, we believe that a balanced diet is the right thing for our pigs, and that includes a variety of grains, including corn. Actually, at this stage of their development, we have bumped up the proportion of corn so as to slightly lower their protein intake; the extra carbohydrate also helps keep them warm at night, as well as enhancing the quality of the finishing fat.

So, there you have it: Corn-fed pork is a good thing. They love it, and they are happy and healthy. If you're still skeptical, come see our pigs for yourself. Better yet, visit the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim and ask for Tamworth pork!

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