We are not vegetarian, but we do care where our meat comes from. So last year we decided that if we would be eating bacon, we would try to be sure it was bacon that lived a happy, healthy life. We got some piglets from a nearby farm, and raised them fairly traditionally. They lived in a barn pen with an outdoor fenced area. They rooted up everything green and made wallows in the mud. They ate all of our kitchen compost and lots of garden produce – in fact, my sweet neighbor Inge’s garden went nuts, and we would haul daily 5 gallon buckets of overripe cukes and tomatoes for the pigs! But they also ate bags of grain. Bags and bags and bags of expensive grain. hmmmmmm……
We wondered if there was a better way. So through the long icy winter we did our research, and learned quite a bit. There was another way… Some people were breeding modern pigs to be like more like pigs were a long time ago.
One of these breeds is the Idaho Pasture Pig – bred for three things:
1) To be grazers. They mainly eat grass and forage, but their snouts are upturned so they don’t root as much and destroy the fields. This breed only eats a pound of grain a day – which is mixed with minerals that they don’t get from the Michigan land.
2) To be good mothers. They are hairy and hearty, meaning they give birth even when it’s cold and don’t lose a piglet. You rarely have to help them give birth.
3) To be gentle – they are friendly and like people. They also grow a little more slowly, and they don’t get to gigantically weird sizes. Have you ever seen an 800lb boar?! I have, and decided that is not the breed for us.
Since they are so little, and we have coyotes around, they are in the barn and we are cutting hay for them each day. My introverted Nate loves this kind of work and finds it meditative, like chopping wood.
But pretty soon they will be big enough to leave the barn and live full time in the pasture, (with a little A-frame shelter) where they will eat grass, and live happy healthy lives as a breeding pair. Their offspring will grow up the same way, resulting someday in organic grass fed pork.
Now the story of how we actually acquired the pigs, that is a story for another day. Ask me when you see me, it’s pretty funny. : )