Folks – it is piggie time and this is one of my favorite times of year.
If you haven’t met me yet, or haven’t been hanging around farmfreshforlife.com long enough, you may not know that I love pigs.
Seriously. Adore. Piggies.
And not the stuffed or ceramic ones that people collect and sit all over their houses. I don’t want that kind. I want the kind that waller, dig, snort, oink and let me scratch them behind thier floppy ears.
I raise pigs every year. I get my feeder piglets in spring and send them off to the butcher in fall. They reside here for about 4 short months and then I eat smoked pork butts, fresh bacon, MSG free sausage, and nitrate free hams ALL YEAR LONG.
Did I mention the lard?
I don’t know how people survive without lard. I cook pretty much everything I eat in lard. It’s full of vitamin D. It’s high in good cholesterol. It’s low in bad cholesterol. It’s won’t clog your arteries. Real lard from pigs living outdoors in the sunshine is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.
I first learned this from Alton Brown. Love that guy, by the way.
Since my jump into self-raised foods I’ve continued to hear more and more about the greatness of pastured (organic) lard. It’s amazing stuff y’all.
Today I am here to convince you that this is the year you should get
a pig 2 pigs.
Why You Should Get Pigs This Year:
#1 Reason You Should Get Pigs This Year: Easy
Pigs are the easiest animal to raise. I have raised plenty of livestock. By far, pigs are the easiest. They need a little shelter. They need food. They need water. That’s about it.
You won’t be doing pig chores all summer. You won’t need to call the vet (probably). You won’t be milking them. You won’t have to let them out in the morning. You won’t have to shut them in at night. You won’t have to collect eggs. You won’t have to worry about predators eating them, killing them, flying away with them or hurting them (probably). Pigs just play, eat and grow into giant pork chops.
#2 Reason You Should Get Pigs This Year: Small Spaces
I love this about pigs. They need enough space so they can root, waller and live happy lives. BUT they don’t need an acre of pasture. They don’t even need 1/4 of an acre. We raise our pigs in a nice, grassy, fenced area. It is not huge, but it’s not tiny either. They have sunshine and plenty of mature trees to provide shade for them.
No matter how much land I give my pigs, they destroy it. When you are choosing your area to raise pigs, pick a place you want to be transformed into a dirt lot. This is what pigs do.
It’s not that they are trying to kill everything, they are looking for some good stuff to eat. Roots, shrubs, brambles and grubs living underground are all tasty things for pigs. In order to properly consume every bit of life in your pig area – your pigs will till up the ground and leave no stone unturned.
Putting pigs on a future garden spot is genius. I did this and had the most successful tomato harvest of my life. Pigs are good at land clearing & fertilizing. To see my pigs helping me garden go here.
#3 Reason You Should Get Pigs This Year: 4 months
If you live in a climate like mine (Kentucky) where there is spring, summer and fall you can raise your pigs while it’s nice out.
Not only can you grow bacon when the sun shines – it only takes 4 MONTHS. This is nothing.
I can do just about anything for 4 months. Even hard things (like eat only foods from my own hands). But raising pigs isn’t hard – I think you’ll enjoy it.
#4 Reason You Should Get Pigs This Year: Bang for your Buck
Pigs win in the edible percentage department. Anytime you process an animal you are going to have waste. There’s blood, eyeballs, hair and other unmentionables that none of us really want to eat. Well, maybe you do, but I don’t. Once you remove all the parts of an animal that you have decided you don’t want to feed to your family you can be left with quite a bit less animal.
With some animals only 30% of their live weight will translate into packaged meat for you to eat. Others it’s around 50%.
Pigs win the prize at 70%. It’s quite amazing. Almost the entire pig is edible. If you want to make headcheese and eat pork liver you can even get more than 70%.
I am always surprised when I go pick up my pigs from the butcher…. So. Much. Food.
Last year I busted the back out of one of our freezers trying to cram 3 pigs into it. Ugh.
Too much pork.
I had to sell one of my pigs because we didn’t have room in the freezer to store the meat from all 3. For more on how much meat to expect from the butcher go here.
In addition to getting an enormous amount of meat from your pig, the selection is equally impressive. When you raise chickens you get chicken. When you raise beef cattle you get burgers, steaks & roasts.
When you raise pigs you get: Pork chops, pork steaks, bacon, picnic hams, ground sausage, sausage links, brats, St Louis ribs, baby back ribs, pork tenderloin, pork butts, pork shoulder roasts, ground pork, breakfast chops, pork cutlets, pork loins, jowl bacon, ham steaks, lard and more! This list isn’t even exhaustive. There are so many options when you raise & process your own pork. The selection is incredible.
#5 Reason You Should Get Pigs This Year: Health
By far, the best reason to raise your own pigs is the healthy food you will receive from your labor.
I think of all the unhealthy supermarket sold meats, pork is probably the unhealthiest of all.
The nitrates & nitrites they put in the bacon & ham.
Fun Fact: Nitrates & Nitrites are found naturally in many fresh foods (fresh veggies especially) and are actually very good for you. It’s when these two compounds are added to processed foods that they become a problem. When they are added to foods (as preservatives) they increase your chances of cancer. source
The preservatives, additives and flavor enhancers (MSG) they mix in the bratwursts, sausages and picnic meats.
I am fond of chemical-free, additive-free foods… especially if I spent the last 4 months raising that food. The last thing I want is some processor adding a bunch of gunk into my clean, pure pork.
On top of all these additives, you have to consider that commercially raised pigs win the trophy for “foods that will kill you.” It’s a sad, sad life for a pig raised by most CAFO’s. Cages, cramped living quarters, antibiotic enhanced feed, poor living conditions…. and did I mention they never see sun, sky, outdoors or fresh air. More on concrete dwelling pigs here. More on pastured animals here.
Common sense tells me that if an animal was raised in a confined, cramped, enclosed, caged environment…. the meat is not going to be good for me to eat.
Of course, the flip side to this story is just as convincing. When pigs are raised outdoors, in the sun, rooting, wallowing and munching on living things they will become a healthy food.
ONE MORE THING
You may or may not have noticed that I subtly implied that you should be raising 2 pigs this year. Actually, you can raise as many as you want, but you should get at least 2. Pigs are social animals. If you get 2 they will have company. Another reason you should get 2 pigs is so that they will grow nicer for you. It’s true. If you get just one pig there is not competition for the food, so they don’t eat as much. This means you could end up with a skinny pig, a pig not ready to go to the butcher by fall or a pig without much lard/ marbling.
I don’t think 2 pigs is any more work to raise than one. If you can’t eat both of them – sell one. You’ll probably make enough money off the sale to reimburse you for all your expenses (Free pork!).
My piglets are just a week old and will be staying with their pig-mommy until they are old enough to be weaned. I can’t wait to bring them home & start my pig project up again.
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