Monday, November 3, 2008

Okay, Let's Talk Pork!

No, not pork barrel. The good and tasty kind.

I don't know nearly as much about how to properly raise pork but I do know enough to be at least a little dangerous. And it's fun to find good stories, such as this one about the Flaherty family in Iowa.

Same as with raising beef cattle, breed, growing conditions, diet, and generally low-stress husbandry and proper slaughter can make a huge difference in taste and texture. Indeed, because of the way pigs digest their food (only one stomach vs. a cattle's four), the finishing diet can have an even stronger influence than with cattle.

Some key things to look for when buying pork.

  • Outdoor raised.

  • Appropriate breed/crossbreed for growing region.

  • Pink meat. Sorry, pork is not the other white meat, that was engineered.

  • All vegetarian diet. And no weird stuff e.g. human leftovers, garbage, cookies.

  • Certified humane. Not a must but preferred. I prefer AWI standards (Animal Welfare Institute).

And talk to the farmer or brand folks and find out if anything special was added to the finishing diet. For instance, some of the world's most famous pork forages acorns in the forests in Spain.

Finally, give your farmer feedback, good and bad, so they can continue to improve.


Emily said...

Thanks for getting the word out. You are totally correct on all of the factors that go into really good pork: suitable breed, growing conditions, diet and low-stress husbandry/slaughter. These also happen to be factors which drastically improve life for the pig. Just to update anyone looking for the Animal Welfare Institute's label: our welfare certification is now called Animal Welfare Approved. We have expanded our program, and while we are still a program of the Animal Welfare Institute, the label you will see in the stores or at your farmers market is "Animal Welfare Approved." Check out ( to see the new label, or to read our standards and farm profiles. We also have some great resources and a label glossary under "What do food labels really mean?" Thanks again for writing and keep up the good work.

Carrie Oliver said...

Emily, thanks for the note! I will modify the original post. Would love to talk with you carrie (at) oliverranch (dot) com.