We believe there’s a healthy and humane way to raise pork.

When we built our state-of-the-art pastured hog facility in 2015, we wanted to create a scalable model for other farmers looking to raise hogs the right way. The facility and its eight acres of surrounding pasture serve as our laboratory. There, we’re investigating best practices for raising hogs in a way that benefits the farmers, animals, and the land.

The Problem with Pork

A Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO

97% of commercial hogs are raised in small, indoor, concrete-floored pens. Almost half are raised on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), also known as factory farms. These intense operations lead to overcrowding, animal stress, disease, and excessive waste. The United States is one of the largest producers of this kind of conventional pork, second only to China.

We developed our facility and research on pastured pork because we believe animals can be raised another way—one that results in a healthier product for people and the planet.

Benefits of pastured pork

Animal Welfare

Pastured animals are free to express their natural behaviors. They’re less stressed and get along better with each other and with handlers.

Diverse Diet & Nutrition

Pigs that forage have access to a diverse array of plants and insects that keep them healthy and entertained. Pigs are smart and need variety.

Reduced Cost

Grazing on pasture means pigs need less feed, which tends to be an expensive input.

rodale hog facility
sow grazes on pasture with piglets

What we’re studying

Some of the questions we’re asking include:

  • How much pasture are the pigs consuming?
  • How much feed is the pasture saving?
  • How frequently do the animals need to be moved?
  • What is the stocking rate (number of animals a pasture can support for a period of time) for pigs on pasture? and
  • How can we minimize land degradation?

Our current research is analyzing:

  • The nutritional composition of the crops in our pastures, both pre- and post-grazing
  • Hog weights relative to the type of pasture and size of paddock grazed
  • The ideal stocking rate and feed conversion ratio

Our goal is to help current and future hog farmers determine the best type of pasture for raising hogs, the best paddock size, and best practices for maximizing the regrowth of forage crops.

2017 Data

Summary of pig weight data. Note Group 5 was not yet finished. Click to enlarge.

 

2017 Pastured pork research graphs showing weight trends
Left: Percent weight gain over time. Right: average hog weight over time. Click to enlarge.

Heritage Breeds

Most hogs today are bred for confinement. We raise heritage breeds instead, which are sturdy and well-suited to life on pasture with a strong genetic impulse to forage. They’re also increasingly threatened as conventional methods have become the norm. Currently, our breeds of choice include (clockwise from top left) the TamworthGloucestershire Old Spot, Red Wattle, and Large Black.

For more information on heritage breeds, visit LivestockConservancy.org.

hog heritage breeds
livestock hogs

Research and Training

New farmers in training assist with data collection and learn about pasture and livestock management at the hog facility.

Learn More about Training Programs

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