Monday, July 9, 2012

Pork To Fork

I need your help for a good cause.

Here's the short version:  For every comment I get on this post with a question about pork farming (sustainability, modern practices, etc), the National Pork Board will donate 1 pound of pork (up to $1,000 worth) to The Foodbank of Ohio.  

The longer version is that in a couple of weeks, I am traveling to Versailles, OH to Wuebker Farms to learn about the Farm To Table aspects of modern day pork farming, courtesy of the National Pork Board.  It is no secret that I'm a prime consumer of pork.

Let's face it, I'm their target demo - PCDWAS  (Pig Consuming Dude With A Smoker). 

I'm excited to learn more about pork farming because I am one generation removed from the original "Farm to Table" movement.  My mom knows all about it because while she grew up slinging tobacco in North Carolina they also had hogs.  She had a "pet pig" named "Poogie".  You know what happened when Poogie got old enough?  Yes.  Poogie went from farm to table.  True story.  

Since Poogie became dinner over 50 years ago, much has changed with the farming of pork to produce a leaner and cleaner pork.  


I am really curious about what all I will learn during this trip because when I think about it in reverse order...
  1. I love smoking, grilling and cooking pork.  I'm rock solid on the consumer end.
  2. I worked in a meat department of a grocery store in the mid-80s (I was underage so I wasn't allowed to butcher and I never used the powered equipment......wink wink).  I'm experienced on the retail end.
  3. I visited a meat packing plant many times when I moved to working for the corporate offices of the same grocery store.  I've seen the production end.
The only part that I have not seen is where the real magic happens, the farming aspect. 

I will be posting more about my trip as it happens but for now, please help me, help The Foodbank in Ohio by asking me a question that I should ask during my visit to the pork farm.  Don't worry about whether or not someone has already asked it, just ask what you want to know.

55 comments:

  1. Chris, when you get to the farm, ask what they give the pigs to bulk them up, and what, if any, the side effects are. There are horror stories about the Tyson pork farms and their giant vats of pig poop that is too toxic to mix with the ground water. It would be interesting to know how much truth is behind those stories

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    1. I have been associated with hogs and livestock most of my life and what you are describing is untrue. Where in the world did you hear this?

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  2. Do pig farmers have a plan in place should a swine flu type virus hit closer to home?

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  3. Are the pigs given any supplements or hormones to make them bigger/fatter or are they allowed to pretty much eat and grow as nature intends?

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    1. I think we all know the answer to that one.

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  4. How awesome will that be? Ok... my question would be - Are your hormones or feed additives ever given to your pigs?
    Can't wait to hear all about it when you return!

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  5. What a great post(and a great cause)Chris! How are the pigs raised- in a cage or free roaming?


    Kim in MD

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  6. Great post - great idea! I hope you receive a lot of comments...now, my question is: Was Porky Pig's stutter the result of some early childhood trauma? Like if he saw his parents dragged from the sty and sent to the slaughterhouse?! I've always admired him, nice to know a stutterer can achieve fame and fortune in Hollywood...and speaking of Hollywood, it's been rumoured for years that Porky Pig and Miss Piggy have a hoof for each other, could you deny or confirm this for me? Enquiring minds want to know.

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  7. What a great cause. I look forward to reading about it later.

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  8. Is there a difference in taste between different methods of raising? Do organic free roaming pigs taste different and/or better than others? I assume pigs don't really "roam free", but you probably know what I mean..

    PS. does that count as two questions?

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  9. One can expect scrutiny/criticism from PETA, et al. concerning pork farming. Is the industry developing practices and public relations efforts to meet the inevitable?

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  10. Great post! What the latest on raising pigs on straw instead of in concrete building? I've heard it easier on the pigs and has a much lower environmental impact.

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  11. What type of pigs do they raise? You hear of Berkshire, Mangalitsa, as heritage breeds used by gourmet restuarants but you don't see them in the stores.

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  12. Hey Chris,

    1) How many racks of ribs does one get from a single pig?
    2) How has pork been bred to be so much cleaner and leaner? Is this a natural process or does it involve some genetic manipulation?

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  13. are pigs used for something other than food?FOOZER69

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  14. Are the pregnant sows allowed to roam, or are they kept in small stalls?

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  15. p.s... what a cool opportunity...I can't wait to hear more about it.

    Can I ask another question - Are the pigs raised indoors or raised on pasture getting most or all of their diet from grazing and foraging?

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  16. If pigs are raised on pasture, is there any special vegetation in the area that lends its "notes" to the meat?

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  17. How is it that it went from 8 to 5 pigs to reach 1,000 lbs? are the pigs just larger? What caused this change?

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  18. Always, always happy to help feed people! And you are, indeed, not just "a prime consumer of pork" but an admirable one! Do the farmers have any favorite recipes they might like to share, that they feel really showcases their product and maximizes its flavor?

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  19. Will pigs eat anything and everything? Are they cannibalistic?

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  20. What a great opportunity! Can't wait to hear all about it. My question is in regards to the flyer above. What exactly has caused the decrease in pigs needed from 8 to 5, which in turn results in decreased water usage, carbon footprint, and land for feeding? They speak of the improvements but I am wondering how or why or what caused these improvements? What are they doing differently than years ago?

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  21. I still think the idea of centralizing the meat processing and packing in this country is a bad one. Give me local growers where I can talk to the man who raised the pig and that I can take directly to a butcher of my choice for processing. The days of being able to know where your food came from, what it really ate and that you can trust what you are eating is long gone and it will unfortunately be our downfall.

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  22. Oh, I want to hear all about this! What a great trip. I want to know what the pigs are being fed to make them that much more productive?

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  23. Is sustainable pork production practical and productive?

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  24. Is sustainable pork production practical and if not can it be madeira productive to bring down prices of smaller farmers?

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  25. how do the metrics above compare to beef, poultry, and fish farms?

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  26. Can commercial hog production actually reach a point that a production facility becomes so large that the cost of a unit begins to increase?

    Dad

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  27. That will be an awesome trip! I guess I'd like to see what they say about how bacon has become a huge accessory to all sorts of food and not just for breakfast.
    Have fun,,

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  28. Are the sow confined in gestation crates, which usually does not allow the pig to turn around.

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  29. How sterile is the killing department when these pigs are snuffed out...also, is there anything like "Pink Slime" in the pork industry??

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  30. I'll play along. What temperature should pork be cooked to be considered safe?(example - loin, chops, not butt) And how do you keep lean cuts of pork from drying out?

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  31. How has the industry reduced the land used for feed by 78%? That sounds like a huge reduction

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  32. what is the average age of a pig before slaughter, and how much movement are they allowed before that time? What are their goals for the meat in terms of fat, myoglobin etc.

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  33. Comment deleted in error, recovered through email:

    "I depise the new "lean" pork chops. Any chance the industry will offer more marbled chops at the grocery stores? "

    Anon posted at 10:34am

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  34. Recently the "safe" internal temperature for cooked pork was lowered, largely in part to improvements in the "cleanliness" of the meat. What were the biggest improvements that led to this change?

    And don't forget to remind them to ask me along again next year. Family commitments kept me from attending with you on this trip. ;)

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  35. Is there a "season" for commercial pork products or do they slaughter all year 'round? What causes the store prices to fluctuate in pork?

    I think you need a cameraman or someone to dictate your notes. I'll volunteer.

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  36. Is there a slaughter "season" for pigs? Or is there some other reason for price fluctuation of pork products at the store?

    You need a personal camera man / dictation service to assist you on your epic journey. I'll volunteer!

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  37. Have you ever eaten Heritage pig? I need to do that.

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  38. I am curious about the deffinition of suckling pig, is it age size, etc.. that diferetiates? Also will it fit on my grill?

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  39. How are pigs butchered? Is it a quick, painless death?

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  40. Are pigs fed leftovers from previously slaughtered animals

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  41. I'm curious what you'll learn also. When I lived in Kansas, a good friend owned a small operation pork farm and I spent some time there. I wish I would have paid more attention to the practices. All I knew is that it tasted fabulous. And then there was the time my cousin sold a big chunk of land in Western Kansas to a huge factory pork farm operation. Everyone was HORRified about them coming in. So yeah, I'll be interested in your trip.

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  42. If a rabbi gives a pig a bar mitzvah, does that make it kosher?

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  43. Do the pigs have cooling fans or misters to keep them cool? Are they fed with the same mix my dad used (a dry mix combined with water to make a "slop").

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  44. Submitted via email by Ken F:
    When you accidently drop your pliers on the slats in the hog buildings, where do they go? Ken

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  45. I come from a pork loving family. Tons of family recipes handed down over the years. Alas, many of the recipes no longer work because the pork has become so lean, the recipes end up with dried up pork instead of the juicy stuff. Can get back to the juicier pork, ie less lean piggies??

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  46. What's the main ingredient(s) in hog feed?
    Are there different feeds for different hogs or desired results?

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  47. I'll comment for a pound to the food bank. Have a great time on the farm. I'm sure it's not the same when I grew up in Iowa years ago. The product is much better so I'm sure the precess is much different. We expect a full report.

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  48. Opps, I forgot my question. How genetic different are today's pigs from 50 yrs ago?

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  49. With the development of "leaner" pork, how has the overall flavor of pork products changed in the past 20 - 30 years? Why don't grocery stores offer "heritage" pork for consumers who are concerned more about flavor than about corporate profits and overall cost?

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  50. I don't like the new leaner pork either. What are they feeding or injecting into the pig to produce leaner meat?

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